Chef and CEO Christina Tosi talks scale, the future and her favorite … – Food Dive

This is part of a new series at Food Dive of Q&A’s with iconoclasts in the industry doing interesting things and challenging the status quo in the food industry. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Name: Christina Tosi 

Where do you live: Manhattan, New York

Occupation: CEO, Milk Bar

In 2005, David Chang hired Christina Tosi to, of all things, create a safety plan for his kitchen so he could cook with a vacuum-sealing system. Tosi had recently created a plan for chef Wyle Dufresne’s restaurant.

During this professional cooking break, Tosi started baking at home and bringing in the goods for Momofuku’s restaurant staff. Chang quickly hired her to create the restaurant’s dessert plan. Previously,Tosi had worked at Bouley, interned at Saveur, and then worked at Dufresne’s wd~50. 

Tosi opened the Momofuku Milk Bar bakery in New York City’s East Village back in 2008 in the restaurant’s epicenter. Famous for concocting unusual and truly unique desserts, including Cereal milk ice cream, the famous Milk Bar Pie (originally called “Crack Pie”), and a legendary sweet corn ice cream and compost cookie, Tosi brought a whimsy and creative nature to desserts and sweets that restaurants hadn’t yet seen. She told the New York Times that bringing her creative dessert concoctions to suburban grocery stores isher gift to children looking for creative inspiration in a sea of mass-market blandness.

Since then, Tosi has been working towards her goal of “democratizing dessert,” and as her creations have moved from being available in-bakery only to supermarkets and e-commerce sites across the country, she’s on the verge of turning that dream into a reality. Milk Bar was a bakery that was always a direct-to-consumer company delivering pies, cake pops and cookies across the U.S. Then the pandemic hit and Tosi wanted to take a step further to become easily available and now Milk Bar products can be found in more than 10,000 stores including Whole Foods, Target, and Costco.

This November 1, Tosi’s holiday collection of confections—including Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gingerbread Latte Ice Cream, and Pumpkin Milk Bar Pie—will hit the shelves.    

The James Beard Award-winning CEO sat down for an interview with Food Dive and answered our 8 questions.  

FOOD DIVE: What was your first job?

CHRISTINA TOSI: My mom is an accountant and she would hire my sister and I to do things like stuff the company newsletters in envelopes and work the shredding room.. I really loved the monotony of it —almost like that “I Love Lucy” chocolate bonbons assembly line. 

That was my first moment of real agency. My first paid job in the industry was at this microbrewery in Harrisonburg, Virginia that’s no longer there, but I was hired as a hostess. I worked my way up and I eventually convinced them to let me work as a prep cook. 

They definitely didn’t take to me right away — they weren’t used to taking girls seriously. I always knew I’d be a good worker, from that mailroom shredding role, but I knew working in food was for me when I started working thereI like to say I’ve been training for this moment my entire life. 

FOOD DIVE: What inspired you to focus on your current work?

TOSI: Well, first and foremost, I have a sweet tooth. Most kids do, but I still do as an adult. 

I learned how to bake because both my grandmothers baked and invited us into the kitchen. They would catch me stealing cookie dough behind their back, And they were like no, you’re not allowed in the kitchen anymore. 

So the only way to get the cookie dough was to figure out how to make it for myself. But really, what I learned very quickly was the power that dessert wields. I dare you to show up with a styrofoam plate of brownies and not feel like you have a superpower. 

I’m an introvert, so I like to think of dessert as my way into being a part of people’s lives and saying I care about you. I got you. 

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Ava Grey

Hi there! I'm Ava Grey, an enthusiastic article writer with a passion for the arts, fashion, and staying informed about current events. As a journalism student at the New York Academy of Art, I'm driven to use my writing to create positive change and spark meaningful conversations. I'm particularly interested in contemporary art and sustainable fashion, and I love exploring how people use these mediums to express themselves and communicate their values. I believe that staying informed and hearing different perspectives is essential for personal growth and learning, and I'm always eager to engage in lively debates and discussions.

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