Milk Bar Founder Christina Tosi on Stocking Your Snack Drawer and Treating Yourself
The head of popular bakery chain Milk Bar talks all things food, fun, and adding magic to your life.
It's an understatement to say Christina Tosi loves sweets. The founder of bakery chain Milk Bar grew up in a family that enjoyed baked goods after every meal—no exceptions—and she still never goes a day in her adult life without eating something (or, more likely, things) sweet.
It's also an understatement to say Christina has a colorful, youthful spirit. She had to be talked out of serving cold pizza at a work breakfast and compromised by bringing friendship bracelets. She has bunk beds in her guest room and occasionally sleeps in them because she thinks climbing out a bunk in the morning gives her a "certain spirit." Cookie dough on a spoon could not please her more if it tried.
It's not surprising, then, that she's partnering with Nestle Toll House to promote their new Unicorn Morsels. The pink-and-blue chocolate chips both satisfy her sweet tooth and appeal to her inner child, all while helping her spread the magic and joy of baking.
We sat down with Christina to chat about her new partnership with Nestle and all things food and fun, including what she keeps in her snack drawer and why she believes in treating yourself every day.
Rachael Ray Every Day: Why did you decide to partner with Nestle Toll House?
Why do Unicorn Morsels speak to you?
There's a lot of proximity to innovation and magic and the spirit and color in baking. I didn't realize what an impression something as simple as baking chocolate chip cookies would make on me. But the kitchen was always the place that I felt the most welcome, the most empowered, the most inspired. And it was my connection to the outside world. Of course I have a sweet tooth, and I bake because I love dessert. But it's my connection to the world. No one ever bakes and keeps all the baked goods. You bake to share. You bake to create that sense of community. That's always what it's been for me. And I love that it all comes together in something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie.
You mentioned your sweet tooth. How often are you snacking throughout the day?
I snack a lot. I'm very much a grazer. Dinner is usually my only real meal. I have a file cabinet in my office that's basically three drawers of snacks and sweatshirts, if we're being honest. My top drawer always has some sort of nuts, like tamari almonds. Lately I'm feeling these pumpkin seeds that have nutritional yeast on them and taste a little cheesy. That's my, like, if I'm trying to be healthy drawer. My middle drawer is always desserts, so anything from new products that we're working on that don't need to be refrigerated or otherwise. And my office is right next to our kitchen, so we always have cookie dough that we're working on, cake, truffles, that kind of stuff. It's almost always someone's birthday so we have birthday cake out. And then my bottom drawer is the salty but naughty snacks, like chips. I love chip salad: When you don't want to choose one chip, you just toss them all together.
Every story about you talks about how often you indulge your sweet tooth. You're a proponent of treating yourself.
Listen, I'm not bathing in pints of ice cream. It's about feeling good, but feeling good looks like a bunch of different things. For me, that's having dessert. It's eating a cookie, eating a scoop of dough. Sometimes it's going for a run in the morning. Sometimes it's climbing out of a bunk bed. Sometimes it's all of those things.
Why is that important to you?
I think about my life, and there are so many things that I could choose to worry about and that I do worry about. And I think in moments in life when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you really have to take a step back and ask yourself what matters. What do you really care about and what really matters? And what matters to me is being someone whose work and presence make a difference. For me, that comes from positivity, so I have to find what gives me the most spirit, what gives me the largest or most meaningful sense of happiness. And it sounds silly, but I was raised, like, you celebrate when dessert comes out. You bake and you share in this altruistic spirit and the spirit of connectivity. Happiness comes through dessert in my world, in my mind, in my heart.
So the moment of knowing when and how to treat yourself is important. It's kind of the moment of knowing when to not take yourself or life or whatever it is that you're chasing so seriously. And it's that moment of eating dessert that just washes it all away. It brings a lightness to my life. And I think it brings a lightness to a lot of people's lives.
On that note, what's for dessert tonight?
I will most definitely eat cookie dough for dessert. Today I'm really feeling the peanut butter chocolate chip monster edible cookie dough. I just love cookie dough.