Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi at Book Larder – Fremont, Seattle
I attended my first event at Book Larder yesterday. A community cookbook store in Fremont, it is a warm and welcoming space with the kitchen at its heart. A large group gathered for Christina Tosi, author, chef and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar.
A vintage stove is salvaged as a window display.
Cookbooks are categorised and neatly stacked. I’m enamoured by the teal walls, a regal shade against the stark white shelves.
Wooden tables are focal points for new releases and local authors.
The kitchen is equipped with modern appliances and accoutrements.
On the cover of Christina’s cookbook is the neon ‘milk’ sign of Momofuku Milk Bars.
A container of cereal milk mix.
The view of the kitchen through a glass of cereal milk. Milk infused with cornflakes, sugar and salt, the sugary beverage replicates the taste of the liquid left at the bottom of a breakfast bowl.
The air was perfumed with butter and there was an abundance of sweet treats.
We munched on sample containers of cereal crunch, a caramelised cornflakes snack.
A platter of cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies.
Deceptively plain in appearance, these corn cookies were chewy with a distinct corn flavour.
Sugar, butter, cream, eggs, milk, cream and oats. The core ingredients of crack pie. Its magical ratios are whisked, kneaded, cooled, baked and frozen into a dense, sticky and crumbly dessert.
Christina described Momofuku Milk Bar as a bakery that serves cookies and cakes with a personality. As a child she was a ‘picky eater with a sweet tooth’. She enrolled in culinary school in New York as an aspiring pastry chef to do what she loves which is to ‘eat sweets all day’! After she graduated she worked in fine dining restaurants. She enjoyed the challenge but was questioning her career direction when she was introduced to David Chang.
David had ‘drive and courage but no infrastructure’ and Christina was hired for the ‘etcetera’ role of ‘everything non-kitchen’ related. She would work during the day, bake at home at night and bring her baked goods into the office to share. There were no desserts on the menu at Noodle Bar or Ssäm Bar. The restaurants were chef focused where the chefs did the payroll and trained the wait staff. It was endearing but masculine.
After a couple of jokes, David was serious about Christina making desserts for the restaurants. She introduced one at a time while still doing her ‘etcetera’ role and transitioned to full-time chef. When the real estate next to Ssäm Bar became vacant, David decided Christina should open the Milk Bar. It is this passion and intuition that characterises David Chang.
Christina commented that the Milk Bar was a ‘lady approach to opening a Momofuku’. Christina built a team of small and talented people that operate the Milk Bars. Each item at the Milk Bars has intention and story behind it. Favourite components of desserts are deconstructed and reconstituted.
David opened Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney last week and I asked Christina if she’ll follow with a Milk Bar. She explained the business has grown rapidly over the last three years and her fear is to split her team and fracture the creative process. She noted there was space available for the expansion!
Another question asked was about home cooking. Christina said the essence is home cooking but she references her formal training. She likened milk powder to ‘MSG for the baker’. She worked at wd~50 prior to joining Momofuku and it was there that she learned to think about the science of food. Her cooking is ‘tangible in unexpected ways’.
The final question was about working with David Chang. Christina spoke with respect and affection on her relationship with David. Working with David requires commitment and tenacity, they have a deep understanding and trust that is ‘silently dynamic’. She is stubborn and David knows it!
Christina brought boxes of cookies from the Milk Bar. From top right: corn cookie, cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie, compost cookie, blueberry and cream cookie, and confetti cookie.
I purchased a copy of the book and I look forward to reading about the ‘intention and story’ of each of the recipes.
Congratulations to the Book Larder for a stellar calendar of events and sincere thanks to Christina Tosi for sweetening our Tuesday evening.