I’ve made it no secret that I admire Christina Tosi and she is one of my “Mount Rushmore” of culinary artists. That landmark designation includes Alton Brown, the man who ushered in my love of the kitchen, Anthony Bourdain, long will he inspire, Gordon Ramsay, never a dull moment, Chef Kevin, the man I learned under for a few months, and Tosi herself.
These people have influenced the way that I handle a knife, throw around dough, wash dishes, bake a loaf of bread, swear at my food and even how my cookies are made. There just isn’t another way to look at my food without seeing some influence of one of these people. For the remainder of my life, they will be a part of whatever I put on a plate or a cookie tray.
The Milk Bar of Queens, Ms. Tosi’s establishment on Hope Street, gave me the opportunity to experience what it would be like to thrive under the roof of my hero’s abode – if just for a few hours.
I know I’m not a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, though I learned from one, but in the world of Ms. Tosi that doesn’t matter. I am free to explore baking with fun, not formality.
I have been making my own kind of cookies based upon Ms. Tosi’s “cereal cookies,” a mashup of Cornflakes and whatever else I can find in the pantry. One day it may be Lucky Charms or another it may be Fruit Loops, but whatever it is I experiment with other flavors and vibes. This is the essence of what I’ve learned from Ms. Tosi – explore the world around you and come up with something that tastes good.
Whatever it is that you want to do with your flavors and however you want to make them, don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to burn them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid.
It’s a message that was repeated in the class I took with her staff while learning how to make her Birthday Cake and Truffles. Don’t be afraid to jump into the cake, don’t be afraid if it falls apart and certainly don’t be afraid to eat it. What’s a cake if you can’t eat it?
It’s these things that make Ms. Tosi one of my culinary idols, and one of the people that I’m not ashamed to say I admire for the work that she does to inspire people. People like me that throw cake in a pan and hope it sticks together.