Crack pie, compost cookies, cereal-milk-flavored soft serve — six years ago, these hilariously named confections would have been the stuff of fantastical sugar-laden dreams and late-night binges. Today, they’re signature trademarks of Milk Bar, the growing bakery franchise co-owned by David Chang and his pastry chef Christina Tosi. These madcap items are more than just trailblazing baked goods — they’re Tosi’s edible manifestations of what it means to be unapologetic about what you believe in. Of course, trusting her gut plays heavily into the 32-year-old’s story of finding success as a chef and entrepreneur, most notably when she moved to New York to study pastry at the French Culinary Institute), and again when she joined David Chang’s Momofuku team — taking on a non-cooking job — back before the restaurant franchise was even a shadow of the globally known phenomenon it is today.
Since becoming Momofuku’s pastry chef and founding the spin-off Milk Bar in 2008, Tosi has seen the franchise grow from a handful of employees to more than a hundred, with five New York City locations (and another on the way this fall), one in Toronto, and a massive bakery HQ in Williamsburg. She also put out a Milk Bar cookbook in 2011 and scooped up the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2012.
Not that it was all a piece of proverbial cake for the Virginia-born chef. In an industry known for its machismo and rough characters, Tosi put her head down and spent the better part of a decade working like a warrior, sometimes at the cost of missing family functions and friends’ weddings. Even before having the legit title of “owner,” Tosi says she “owned” just about every task she took on, as well as every mistake she made along the way.
Today, her official ownership over her expanding business is stronger than ever, but Tosi still gets the importance of kicking back and having some fun, whether that's literally kicking up her feet in her back yard or showing off her silly side in an '80s-workout themed promo video for Karlie’s Kookies, alongside the cookies’ namesake supermodel.
Read on for Tosi’s take on being a boss and mentor in a notoriously difficult industry, keeping perspective, the top-choice dinner spots in Williamsburg, and what’s next — including, ahem, a new cookbook!