In just five years, Momofuku Milk Bar, the offshoot of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, has become a global brand with multiple locations and sprawling Brooklyn headquarters. Headed by chef/owner Christina Tosi, named the 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year and one of 10 world class female chefs by New York magazine, we popped into the Milk Bar's Williamsburg kitchen to see where all the magic happens. Along the way we learned that eating healthfully to feel good may be a myth, that Karlie Kloss loves to bake, that cereal milk straws could be the next big thing and so much more.
"Karlie Kloss loves to bake and she comes to our East Village shop all the time so someone suggested we meet. She started coming here to the kitchen and when we decided to do a gluten- and dairy-free vegan dessert, we wanted it to have a charitable component and it made perfect sense to work on it with her. We launched the Perfect 10 Kookie about a year ago. All proceeds go to charity — with each purchase, 10 hungry children are fed. To date we’ve been able to raise enough money for about 300,000 meals.“
Christina Tosi's Office
"I wish I could be down in the kitchen all day, but it's hard to see the bigger picture when you're cooking all day! I'm usually up here working; it's great though because a lot of the people that started with me as cooks when we first opened are now working with me on an upper management level. It's important for us to see the bigger picture so that we can grow while maintaining consistency. This room used to be a kitchen!"
"I like go to Suburbia and see what is being offered to the mass consumer so these are a few items I've picked up along with things people have brought back from their travels. I'm also working on an idea for a cereal milk flavored straw, which explains the stapled together tubes! The Japanese product someone just brought back from Japan. They're white chocolate freeze dried pieces of corn...I've eaten almost all of them. The rest of the items are for a butter idea I'm working on; I still can't quite wrap my head around it so I keep these products sitting here so I don't forget."
"We ship tons of orders both nationally and internationally every day."
"We used to work out of the East Village in the space that is now Booker and Dax — the kitchen was tiny! We literally were working from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. to get everything done. The mixers were so small we'd have to make the same thing four or five times. We've been in this new space for three years, but it's filled out fast! We also have a lot better hours now; all of our cooks work four days a week/10 hours a day."
"These are some onions being prepped to get caramelized since we sell some savory items in our storefront here."
"This is where our cereal milk mix and corn powder get packed. The corn powder bottle has enough corn powder for corn cookies, crack pie and cereal milk, while the cereal milk mix makes 8 cups of cereal milk — just combine it with a 1/2 gallon of milk, let it steep for 5 minutes, strain it and enjoy!"
"Our signature pies getting made."
"I love when we get new people in the kitchen and seeing how many days it will be before they stop going home sick. The first few days people always overindulge till they realize that they will be around cookie dough every day, so they can pace themselves!"
"I never get sick of cookies. I have a cookie with me every cup of coffee and I just had a compost cookie for breakfast! I also baked a batch of Cornflake Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies this morning since we're bringing those back for the holidays. We're also toying with the idea of adding a nut-free cookie into the mix as part of our line of cookies that go to benefit FEED Projects. We're still working out the flavor...one day it's gingersnap the next we're dead set on peanut butter!"
"After baking, all of our truffles and cookies go into the freezer for about an hour so they don't get flimsy when they're bagged."
"We have multiple walk-in refrigerators and freezers, so each of them have signage outside."
"This is our special orders section. People can request any of our flavors since we only carry three at a time in each store. This is also where we handle all of our wedding cake orders. Hence all the paperwork!"
"Our storefronts are so small that we only carry three flavors of cake/pie at a time, but all 14 are available any time for special order."
“Working here is something very active. We’re all almost always on our feet, but I consider myself very lucky to get to spend my days around sugar and cookies! We have an amazing group of people here who all share the same vision.”
"This is where we have all of our cooking classes. I love feeding off the energy of people when they come here."
"We're always testing new ideas. It's fun, but it's a long process. Every day we do research and taste tests. We haven't had to change any of our recipes, however, once they've launched."
"We had the kitchen here a year before opening up the storefront. The storefront used to actually be an electric room! We always knew we'd open up another store here, but we wanted to wait a year to get our kitchen's system and flow just right."