Christina Tosi, head chef and founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, is an American chef, book author and television personality. And she is also one of the people I follow and love in the pastry industry simply because she knows who she is, she is always true to herself, she is committed to what she does and is never a copy-paste. I think this is a huge statement nowadays in this world of fake and copying each other without giving credit. She stands out and she does it without being fussy or asking for too much. She is just herself, baking good desserts that remind people of their childhood. Now that’s something to admire, don’t you think?!
Born in Ohio and raised in Springfield, Virginia, Christina Tosi studied to be an electrical engineer for one year at the University of Virginia, but then she moved to Florence, Tuscany (country of her father) to see if she wanted to become a translator. Life had other things in mind for her however as she eventually moved to New York and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, studying pastry.
Her first job was at a fine dining restaurant, Bouley, followed by a job at the wd~50, a molecular gastronomy restaurant in Brooklyn. In 2005, at Wylie Dufresne’s recommendation, David Chang, the owner of the famous Momofuku restaurant, hired Christina Tosi at his to write his food safety plans and help with administrative jobs regarding the Department of Health. As Chang says, he hired her specifically to put him in good relationship with the Department of Health, which at the time, had him under strict surveillance. “The job with David was a different kind of job. I was becoming a facility manager, I was helping him run the restaurant”, Christina says in an interview. “After two weeks, he told me <hey, you used to be a pastry chef at Wylie, he tells me all these things that you used to do. Where’s my family meal, where’s my cookies?> I got home and I just started baking something. And the next day I brought in Crack Pie with miso”, Christina continues about her first steps into the world of Momofuku. David Chang saw behind the dessert though, he saw the creativity in that pie, he saw the strong personality and decided to introduce her desserts into the menu of the Momofuku Ssam Bar. And that opened a whole new world of possibilities, including her own Momofuku Milk Bar.
Momofuku Milk Bar
Momofuku Milk Bar was built on an idea that Tosi had one night as she was walking through the isles of a food shopping market. She grabbed a box of cereals and decided to infuse their flavor into a panna cotta she was going to make for a Momofuku tasting menu. Upon tasting, David Chang loved her idea and found it worthy of a business of its own. And that’s how, in 2008, Milk Bar was born, in a space right next to Momofuku Ssam Bar, but where Tosi had full responsability of what she was going to make, what recipes she was going to use. Soon enough, the menu was filled with desserts like Cereal Milk, Compost Cookies, Crack Pie or her famous Milk Bar cakes.
By 2012, Momofuku Milk Bar had grown from one tiny store in East Village of Manhattan to nine stores throughout New York City. These were soon followed by one in Toronto, Canada, three in Washington DC and two in Las Vegas. By the end of 2019, Christina has opened 16 stores and had more than 380 people under her guidance.
2012 was also the year that Christina was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, thus recognizing her great work in the world of dessert, her creativity and spirit of innovation, her love for this craft and commitment to being unique.
In 2015, Christina Tosi joined Masterchef as one of its judges, also appearing in Masterchef Junior later that year. It was this step that brought her world wide recognition and her desserts began to be recognized every where in the world. But my encounter with her was way back when I used to follow a few well known American bloggers. All I could read everywhere was that Momofuku Milk Bar recipes where difficult to make and a pain to assemble, that her cakes were amazing but too complex to make and so on. It was a challenge for the beginner I was at the time, so I set a goal to actually do it to prove myself that I can. What I did not know was that with good organisation of the steps, her recipes are not actually that difficult. They are rather enjoyable to make since all the elements come together so nicely!
A few Momofuku recipes found on this blog that you might enjoy:
But rest assured that my quest through Christina Tosi’s recipes will not end here. I will keep adapting recipes and posting, it’s a style that I enjoy and desserts that I absolutely love!
Photography source: Christina Tosi’s Instagram