Christina Tosi opened Milk Bar eight years ago in New York under David Chang’s Momofuku umbrella. The bakery, known for its crack pies and compost cookies (for which coffee grounds are mixed with chocolate and potato chips), has made its international debut in Momofuku’s downtown Toronto complex.
The Globe caught up with Tosi on Milk Bar’s jam-packed launch day to discuss cookies, Cronuts and why maple is a tough flavour to bake with.
Your cookies draw crowds. How is that possible?
I don’t know! I’m a cookie monster myself, and I would totally queue up in line for a good cookie. I would be standing outside in line if I wasn’t in here working.
How long would you wait in line for a good cookie?
Overnight. I think I would sleep over for a cookie.
Do you have a favourite treat?
I always go back to the cookie. Nice and crispy on the outside, fudge-y in the centre – for me, it just never gets old.
I’ve read that you don’t eat many non-dessert foods. Is that true?
It’s pretty true. It doesn’t help being in a pastry kitchen all the time. But we’ve really been upping our savoury game, which means in turn I’ve been eating more real-people food.
What kind of real-people food do you like?
We went to [Toronto restaurant] Black Hoof last night and we had the liver and onions there. There’s something funky and meaty there but also a really candy-like sauce to the onions. I could eat that all day, every day. I’m a really big crusty bread and stinky, funky cheese kinda person.
The Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, is New York’s hottest and hardest-to-get treat right now. You have connections – have you tried one?
I have tried a Cronut! We sort of flirt-tweeted with Dominique Ansel, like, “Chef, we’ll trade you!” They totally live up to the hype. I think it’s genius. I’m super jealous – I wish that I came up with the idea but I’m really in awe of it in its entirety, from an innovative standpoint and also because it’s super delicious.
Do you think we’re seeing the rise of the celebrity baker?
We’re seeing more attention given to the creative minds behind what’s coming out and drawing even more enthusiasm towards food. Pastry chefs are opening more of their own standalone shops rather than just being part of a restaurant team.
Do you think they were under-appreciated before?
I think if you ask any of them working in a hot kitchen, long hours, they’d probably say yes, but as they open their own places they have their fingerprints all over the menu rather than just on the last course. It’s even harder work but it’s super exciting.
You’ve been on Jimmy Fallon, The Today Show and Conan. Do you get recognized?
Not really, which I really like. I don’t have a long orange ponytail and orange Crocs like [Mario] Batali – I don’t have a defining anything.
Are you planning anything Canada-inspired for Milk Bar in Toronto?
There’s no way we’re not going to start grabbing and pulling inspiration from being here, and flavours and textures that are very Canadian or Torontonian. There’s definitely going to be something maple-inspired. It’s just a matter of what, because I feel like maple is in so many desserts in so many forms. We’ll have to dig really deep to come up with something new and exciting and Milk Bar.
Tough question: cake or pie?
Depends. Our cakes are these crazy layered cakes of texture and flavour and filling. I like the icing of a cake and I like the crust of a pie, so if someone could find a way to incorporate the two, for me that would be the ultimate.
Someone … like you?
Now that I just said it out loud, I’m like, “Oooh, I could really take that somewhere!”
This interview has been edited and condensed.