The world of culinary professionals, according to Christina Tosi, is divided into two parts: those who can comfortably follow a recipe to a T and those who can’t.
“If it calms you and chills you out, you’re a baker,” she says. “If it stresses you out, you’re a cook.”
Tosi, a dyed-in-the-wool baker since childhood, is the first of four chefs profiled in the fourth season of “Chef’s Table” subtitled “Pastry,” which begins streaming Friday, April 13, on Netflix. The hourlong episode captures Tosi at home, with her family in Ohio and Virginia and at her Manhattan dessert restaurant Momofuku Milk Bar as she talks about her life, career, baking and what inspires her.
And like any good artist, Tosi – who is also a co-host on Fox’s “MasterChef: Junior Edition” – gets inspirations in the unlikeliest of places, her biggest being the aisles of a grocery store. And she finds she is at her best when she is inspired, such as when she created one of her signature desserts shown in the episode, crack pie.
Here, she describes how she got in the kitchen, began putting together ingredients and being blown away by what she calls the “magic” that resulted. The problem came when she realized she failed to document the process.
“I’m the best kind of baker and the worst kind of baker,” Tosi says with a laugh, “and I say that because I am such a rule follower. I was raised to be a rule follower, and I am a crazy person when it comes to following recipes to a gem scale hundredth of a gram.
“But when I am in my innovating mode,” she continues, “the only way I know how to innovate is to throw caution to the wind and to break every rule. So everything – I’m talking compost cookie, crack pie … all of these recipes are recipes that are just me being like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna add a little of this and then taste it. OK, I’m gonna add a little of that and then taste it.’
“It is a very savory chef approach to baking when I am like … making magic in the kitchen,” she says. “And when I make something that then tastes really great, I’m like, ‘S…! Now I’ve got to go back and pick apart exactly what I did.’ … I need a Go Pro, basically, hiding in my kitchen so that the picking it back apart is less daunting than it is currently.”