chef christina tosi on the milk bar life

    mac and cheese pancakes, and more

    by busra erkara · April 08, 2015

    Photo courtesy of Christina Tosi and Clarkson Potter

    At 33, Christina Tosi is the quintessential Renaissance woman: Before moving to New York to study pastry at the French Culinary Institute, the chef considered becoming an Italian interpreter and even toyed with the idea of electrical engineering. Her formal education was followed by gigs at Bouley and the now-defunct WD-50, alongside a part-time assistantship at Saveur, and later, an office job in David Chang’s Momofuku. Rumor has it she would bring in the best desserts ever—so delicious, in fact, that her transfer to the back of the house was generally accepted as inevitable. After running Momofuku’s dessert program for two years, she was asked to spearhead Milk Bar in 2008—and the rest is the sweet history. 

    This spring finds Tosi busier than ever—with her second book, Milk Bar Life (which, um, features recipes like “Mac and Cheese Pancakes”) out now, and appearances as the new judge on Fox’s beloved shows, MasterChef and MasterChef Junior starting in May. Here, we catch up with the one chef we truly, madly, deeply heart. Click through to read our interview. 

     

    Photo courtesy of Christina Tosi and Clarkson Potter

     

    Photo courtesy of Christina Tosi and Clarkson Potter

    How did you decide which recipes to include in the book?
    I focused on the food and stories that fuel us to tap into our imagination to create, innovate, cook, and bake. Each chapter focuses on a different theme—"Hand Me Downs" is all about recipes handed down from friends and family, "Weak Nights" focus on snacks to make when you come home dog-tired at 11pm and need to eat something but have only war rations left in the cupboard.

    You talk a lot about the importance of community, as well as the family meal tradition at your Williamsburg atelier.
    Eating together was a big part of my upbringing and a tradition we keep daily amongst the amazing team at Milk Bar. The “We Are Family” chapter from the book tells of our daily 1pm routine, when we pull up a kumbaya-ish circle of milk crates and sit down to share. We share food, we share the hilarity of the night before, or the morning's happenings, mildly inappropriate YouTube videos, photos of thuggish selfies in front of a Ferrari that got lost in Brooklyn. We share it all. 

    Photo courtesy of Christina Tosi and Clarkson Potter

    Can you think of any other aspects of life where people could benefit from a similar brand of communal thinking?
    I can't think of a community that couldn't benefit from communal thinking. I think sharing ideas, stories and being open-minded about getting to know and learning to embrace every little thing about your team is incredibly valuable and vital. You celebrate the good, you celebrate the bad. More than anything you learn to communicate. You learn how to be on the same page, and you acquire an unbelievable sense of ownership as a valid and valuable member of the team. Any team member, any community member wants and needs to know they count, that they're welcome, and that they're important.

    Photo courtesy of Christina Tosi and Clarkson Potter

    What's your utmost favorite thing about MasterChef and MasterChef Junior?
    The kids! They are so much fun! So fearless, so pure. They want to succeed, but they want each other to succeed, too. 

    In the book, you talk about how you feel that every moment of your life was building up to Milk Bar, but at the same time, you have no clue how it all came together. What advice would you give to your younger self, if any?  
    Know who you are and stay true to it. Have a point of view, keep your head down when noise tries to drown out your inner voice, and whatever you do, keep pushing.

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