Choosing food as a hobby can be tough.
It is, first of all, a decidedly first-world, middle-class exercise- turning a basic necessity (something that is in huge demand in massive parts of the globe where people are starving- yes, I know, but thanks for reminding me Smug Pretenso in my Brain) into an instrument of fun and joy. It’s a little bit like using a Faberge egg as a doorstop on your yacht. So you automatically sound like an asshole whenever you talk about it. Opinions like this feel completely justified. (And yet, at the exact same time, leave me alone, dude. Am I breaking into your apartment and force-feeding you beef jerky that I JUST MADE HOMEMADE OMG I AM AMAZING. No? Then shut up.) (Also, you wish I was doing that. Don’t kid yourself. It’s homemade beef jerky, are you made of stone?) (I have never made beef jerky.)
I’ve learned to accept this. As I stand in Whole Foods next to a woman who is trying to feed her child organic soy nuts instead of the name brand Cheerios his small body is craving with every fiber of his tiny being, I catch her eye and I sigh to myself, “I am just as bad.” I might be worse because I actually cannot afford to eat like this and I do anyway. I am the peasant who just spent all her gold coin on a mirror so she can gaze at herself. And then she dies of typhus.
Anyway. I cook so much that one of the side effects is that I don’t really get excited about dishes anymore. In truth, looking for new stuff to try, to fold into your budget, into your week can be a little exhausting. And discouraging. Add to that the “status” aspect of being into food (going to the newest restaurant just to say you’ve been, finding the underground places before anyone else so you can be That Guy, flashing around your knowledge of wine and what goes with what) and the competitive aspect (who can make what better and blah blah blah) and meeting people who turn their noses up at Taco Bell (if you showed up with a Nacho Bell Grande right now, I would kiss you on the mouth), the same people who aren’t sure what a “TV” is, well… sometimes you just want to give it all up. Go back to canned soup and tuna noodle casserole and Hamburger Helper.
So, when I tell you my elation over this little snippet about Christina Tosi from New York’s Momfuku Milk Bar, I think you’ll see why. I think you’ll believe me. How precious is she? And how badly do you want to make that Crack Pie?
For a pastry chef who runs one of America’s most exciting bakeries, Christina Tosi has very peculiar taste.
Before the 28-year-old made a name for herself at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York, she was just a little girl in Virginia eating lima beans with ranch dressing, Doritos sandwiches with Miracle Whip, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese mixed together with SpaghettiOs—and very little else. “I had a different perspective on food,” she says. “I knew my combinations, and I knew what I liked.” Lucky for us, her mom, her aunts, and her grandmothers were all avid bakers. “My mom let me eat cookie dough—until it got out of hand,” says Tosi. “That’s when I decided that I needed to figure out how to make it myself.”
That drive propelled her through culinary school, tours of duty as a pastry chef in the kitchens of New York’s Bouley and WD~50, and then on to David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar—where she got her big break. Tosi baked goodies for the staff and so impressed Chang that he tapped her to run his pastry shop, Momofuku Milk Bar. Today, Tosi and her team create all of the desserts served throughout the six-restaurant Momofuku empire. Chang is a mad genius and a rule breaker, and he encouraged Tosi to break a few rules of her own. While other pastry chefs scoured the world for the finest fleur de sel and stone-ground chocolate, Tosi looked to the city’s bodegas for inspiration. She grabbed bags of pretzels, potato chips, and marshmallows and boxes of cornflakes and oats and dry milk powder. These pedestrian ingredients ended up in bizarre creations like cornflake-infused milk; ooey, gooey, and addictive “Crack Pie” with a buttery oatmeal cookie crust; “Compost Cookies” spiked with pretzels, coffee grounds, potato chips, and who-knows-what-else; and towering malted chocolate layer cakes stuffed with charred marshmallows.
Few had seen (or eaten) desserts like these before. They were insane—and they were also insanely good. The key to all this delicious madness? Limitations. “Restrictions help with creativity,” says Tosi. “You have to learn to make something out of nothing. How creative can you get?”
Sounds like a challenge to us.
Entry filed under: Delicious.