Welcome back to my coverage of the Netflix series Chef’s Table. After a day’s hiatus due to an unexpected trip to western Pennsylvania, from which I’m writing, we’re back with Episode 1 of Volume 4. This episode follows Christina Tosi from up-and-coming kid to world-renowned pastry chef. The previous episode featured chef Albert Adrià and his quest to raise the profile of his own name.
Christina Tosi is an all-American chef. Born in Springfield, Virginia, she defied her family’s expectations and moved to New York City after college. There, she began culinary school while working nights in the restaurant scene.
Eventually, she landed a position at Bouley, a contemporary French restaurant, where she worked before moving to Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. While there, she created a number of her most iconic dishes. Her crack pie was an off-the-cuff creation for “family meal” — the meal shared by cooks and servers before dinner service.
Christina rose in the restaurant’s ranks, and eventually Wylie offered her the position of pastry chef. But she turned it down. The hectic, fast pace of restaurant life had drained her, and she didn’t want to be a pastry chef in the French style. She wasn’t looking to lead the pastry scene of fine dining into the future. She wanted nothing more than to recreate childhood flavors and reinvent classic American desserts.
Christina’s iconic Milk Bar was born after she made a dessert featuring cereal milk — the milk left over after cereal is steeped in it — for restauranteur David Chang, who had hired her to write food safety plans for his restaurant Momofuku. Sensing that she’d stumbled on a unique discovery, Chang gave her the opportunity to open her own restaurant. She jumped on it and flung herself headfirst into the idea.
From the get-go, Milk Bar was a success. People lined up down the block to get a taste of crack pie and cereal milk soft-serve. In 2009, a year after Milk Bar’s inception, Anderson Cooper professed his love for the little bakery on live TV — and Milk Bar exploded.
Since then, Christina’s dessert empire has expanded. From its website, Milk Bar sells a line of products for home bakers. Birthday cakes, birthday truffles, pies, cookies… The Milk Bar empire now boasts 18 stories and 3 flagship locations. As for Christina, she joined the ranks of better-known American chefs when she began appearing as a judge on MasterChef.
And, more importantly, she’s stayed true to herself throughout her career. For her, it was never about the frills. Her food isn’t fancy. It’s sweet and it’s American. It draws on junk food. But for Christina, eating isn’t always about health. Sometimes it’s about happiness. And she hopes that her food will make you happy.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to this episode of Chef’s Table. I’ll be back again tomorrow with your guide to Volume 4, Episode 2. Until then, stay well — and eat well!