Food & Drink

October 21, 2012

Interview with Christina Tosi, the 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year

spotlight interviews, photo: google images

Christina Tosi is the chef and owner of momofuku milk bar, the bakery-inspired dessert arm of David Chang’s Momofuku Restaurant Group. As founder of the dessert program at momofuku, Christina helped momofuku ko earn two Michelin stars and landed momofuku ssäm on Restaurant Magazine’s top 50 restaurants in the world 2012 list at #37. Chang’s Dessert Darling is the 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year. None of this has affected or inflated Tosi’s ego, she just continues doing what she does best, bake. On the momofuku milk bar website it simply states “we’re momofuku milk bar, a bakery in nyc. we make cookies, cakes, pies and more!” it’s that straightforward humble statement and approach that has garnered a massive loyal, cult-like following to the milk bar for its famed compost cookies® and crack pies® not to mention a hopeful chance of running into the cookie queen herself. As you read through the interview you’ll feel as if you know Christina; the girl next door who just happens to be really good at what she does….and getting recognized for it. I present this week’s Chef in the Spotlight, Christina Tosi of momofuku milk bar.

Christina Tosi photo credit: Kent Miller

South Florida Food and Wine: What made you choose your career path of baking and pastry versus culinary?
Christina Tosi: I am a die hard sugar addict! Always have been. It chose me!

South Florida Food and Wine: Congratulations on winning the 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award; how has this honor affected your life? And what is the greatest opportunity that has come from it for you to date?
Christina Tosi: Winning the James Beard award was an overwhelming honor. It typically leaves me speechless- I really don’t know what to make of it or what to do with it! The greatest opportunity that has come from it is the chance to share it with everyone that has helped inspire, support, push and work alongside me to get this far. More than anything it’s made me realize it’s not about me at all, it’s about the incredible team I am so proud to be a part of at Milk Bar.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite dessert item to make?
Christina Tosi: Mixing cookie dough never gets old. I’ve been doing it for about 25 years!

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Christina Tosi: I love milk powder as my secret ingredient! It adds so much depth of flavor, and has great textural properties in baked goods.

South Florida Food and Wine: You’re a great Pastry Chef, with that said, are you a good cook?
Christina Tosi:I think you have to be a good cook to be a great pastry chef. You have to be able to create good food with a point of view. Savory or sweet. They go hand in hand.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about being a chef entrepreneur?
Christina Tosi: Ha. The learning curve. They don’t teach you any of it until you’re knee deep in the quicksand of it, trying to find your way out!

South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to bake with and why?
Christina Tosi: Julia Child. For her throw caution to the wind, don’t take yourself so seriously mentality. And I think between the two of us, we’d kill a batch of chocolate chip cookies or croissants in a flash.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Christina Tosi: Ice Cream in bed.

South Florida Food and Wine: Where was the last place you had dessert at, other than Momofuku?
Christina Tosi: Uchiko in Austin, Tx.  Phillip Speer is doing amazing things with dessert down there.

South Florida Food and Wine: This is not an easy business, what motivates you to be bigger, better, stronger?
Christina Tosi: I have a nurturing spirit, but I also have a competitive spirit. I was a distance runner most of my teenage years. My love for what I do, the people I work alongside every day is what pushes me, the love to compete, the “marathon” that the business is feeds that love, and motivates me daily.

South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Christina Tosi: Most times I hate taking the day off, I love checking in on the milk bar family, a few times, at the very least. I love to walk with my pups, escape into a movie or two or three, have a drink, grab a bite and walk some more. I walk alone sometimes, but I’m always up for a good walk with a good friend, too.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is the one piece of advice you would offer chef entrepreneurs starting out today?
Christina Tosi: Keep your head down, and keep your heart true. You’ll never be mislead to you where you belong. Don’t get caught up in much else.

Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Restaurant Group

Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale

2012 Spotlight Interviews

Girl Power, Interviews with Female Chefs, Vintners and Entrepreneurs

2011 Spotlight Interviews

2010 Spotlight Interviews

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