Culture November 13, 2016
“Master Chef” judge Christina Tosi stands in a white bathtub filled with 40 gallons of milk, her hair swept up in a messy bun, dressed in nothing but a white cotton bathrobe and drinking from a straw that is almost as tall as she is. The photo, which was featured in an article written for Adweek‘s June 2015 Food Issue, reflects the whimsical and carefree attitude that Tosi brings to her line of edible creations.
The cover of the article shows Tosi lying on the ground with her arms tucked behind her head, surrounded by 45 pounds of rainbow sprinkles – perhaps a shout out to her signature cereal milk soft serve ice cream. In the world of sweet treats and delectable eats, Christina Tosi’s famed Momofuku Milk Bar surely takes the cake.
You might have heard of Tosi’s birthday cake milkshake or her blueberry pancake soft-serve, but you probably didn’t know how this dessert queen rose from college student to culinary fame.
Before she gained national attention for her culinary skills, Tosi studied Applied Mathematics and Italian at James Madison University. While at first baking at night was a way to relieve stress from the daily academic grind, her love of food continued when she started working with television personality and restaurateur, David Chang, at his Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.
It was during this time that Chang discovered Tosi’s unique take on the sweet and scrumptious. When Chang asked her to come up with a dessert menu for his restaurant, she was initially hesitant. However, her first batch of desserts, which included “European-style butter shortcakes with Tri-Star strawberries and sour cream” sold out the first night. Eventually, a dessert menu was added to the regular offerings and the rest was history. Momofuku Milk Bar was born out of this collaboration between Chang’s restaurant in New York’s East Village and Tosi’s knack for sweets.
So what makes Milk Bar unique? In her interview with Adweek, Tosi discusses her vision for a dessert bar that offered an escape from the everyday. As luck would have it, Milk Bar opened in the middle of the 2008 financial crash. But turning lemons into lemonade, Tosi took advantage of the opportunity to give her customers something to look forward to.
Milk Bar’s grand opening in New York’s East Village was a huge success with lines out the door. Tosi’s innovative take on the dessert bar scene allowed the restaurant “to break down the concept of what a bakery could be” by staying open until 2 a.m. and offering unusual desserts that could not be found anywhere else. Tosi tells Adweek, “We didn’t have cafe seating—we didn’t even have coffee on our original menu—and we kept the store open until 2 a.m. … And so going out for dessert became a thing. It became a scene.”
Since its grand opening in 2008, Milk Bar has morphed into a dessert monopoly of sorts. If you’re feeling something sweet, you can’t go wrong with truly unique offerings like the “compost cookie” and the “salted pretzel cake.” Or how about the “cereal milk affogato” to top it off? From baking mixes and cookbooks, to corporate catered wedding cakes, Christina Tosi makes something for everyone.
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