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Kitchen Confidential With Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi

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Christina Tosi cut her teeth at molecular gastronomy shrine WD-50 and refined French restaurant Bouley before jolting New York’s collective sweet tooth as pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar. At the dessert annex to David Chang’s savory Momofuku empire Tosi crafted fancifully irreverent treats like Crack Pie and the Compost Cookie (which includes pretzels, potato chips and coffee among many other incongruous ingredients). She won the Rising Star Chef award at the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards, and will prompt a Hamptons-wide sugar high at Milk Bar’s new Montauk branch this summer.

How did you begin your culinary career?

I have been obsessed with cookie dough since I was a chubby little kid.

How do you compare making sweets at a standalone bakery to a restaurant with a full menu?

We face different hurdles and challenges with food and service at Milk Bar, as compared to a more typical restaurant, though the end goal is always the same: serve the most delicious food possible and have a point of view.

Are there any desserts you’ve come up with on your own that are too crazy even for the unorthodox Milk Bar menu?

It happens all the time. The most difficult one for me to let go was an American cheesecake with a Ritz cracker crust and a green tomato sorbet. I was about the only one who thought it was a deliciously great idea.

Are there any items unique to the Montauk branch that were inspired by the East End? We’re serving slushies out in Montauk along with some of our favorite and most popular Milk Bar fare. Our slushies (available in Cereal Milk, Arnie Palmer and Stumptown Coffee) are our homage to Milk Bar on the beach. We were very much inspired to make a twist on a milkshake, taking nods from our favorite beach drinks (blended margaritas, Slurpees and snow cones).

When you’re not at a Momofuku restaurant, where are we most likely to spot you having a meal out?

I love to try new places, and try to not eat at the same place twice. That said, I love visiting Mission Chinese and Caracas at least once a week!

What’s your favorite drink?

Gin & Tonic

What’s your favorite pastime when out of the kitchen?

I love to run. I also love to bring my pups on long walks.

How do you expand a restaurant while maintaining its distinctive quality, and where might Milk Bar land next?

We look at each Milk Bar store as an extension of ourselves, and what we create in terms of food. We have a basic formula for what we think “makes” a Milk Bar and create from there, drawing on the neighborhood, etc. Having said that, I have no idea where Milk Bar might land next!

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014