Meet Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar at the 2nd annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival



Courtesy of Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

Interviews with Christina Tosi, the chef and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar, often show her incredible zest for life, which could be partly sugar-fueled, given her love of sweets and cookie dough. She’ll be participating in the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival as part of the “Girls Got Game” brunch, featuring women chefs and Hawaii women farmers.

What was your first thought when asked to be part of "Girls Got Game"?
I thought, “That's going to be the ultimate Sunday! Slinging tasty food with a bunch of ladies slinging, celebrating the food and spirit of the land.”

How much do you think about being a woman in the kitchen?
I don't think about it much unless asked to think about it. I was raised by a pretty tough matriarch that was never big on treating boys much different from girls, or for making excuses one way or the other.

What are your thoughts on whether it’s different, or not, or if you wish people would stop asking you gender-based questions?
I always feel like the gender-based questions are lost on me!

Articles on you usually mention your love for unusual food combinations, like Miracle Whip with Doritos, Kraft mac and cheese with SpaghettiOs. Are these born out of whatever’s in the cupboard or is there a method behind the madness?
Those are some of my very, very old concoctions from when I was a teenager. But those silly combos very much mark the time that I really became interested in food, and food pairings, and the resourceful and creative nature of creating something out of nothing, or simply looking at pantry items and wondering how far I could take them.

Any newly discovered combinations you love?
We have a few new soft serve flavors debuting at our stores that very much play on our love of combos: cheddar/green apple, coco-cocoa, raspberry-rye, strawberry-tahini, guava-horchata, kaffir lime-caramel, and blueberry miso (my all time favorite!)

You studied electrical engineering for a bit, then Italian and math? How and why the leap into culinary?
I was really just wandering around the world, doing things that I loved. My family made college education a priority so I knew I had to take academic classes in something—math and foreign languages just had my heart. But after studying every night, I’d get into my kitchen and make triple layer cheesecakes or sandwich cookies until the sun came up. Once it came time to graduate and find a real job, I leveled with myself and committed to my then, late night obsession of baking!

I loved reading your food diary. What's your response to people who are horrified by your sweets/junk food intake? What do you say to concerned friends?
Honestly, I do eat an unbalanced amount of sweets and chips, but I also have the pleasure of eating lovely, highbrow meals, too. Part of that article is making it a fun article to read and editing out some of the 'snores.' I embrace the child within me. I run around, I don't do drugs or smoke cigarettes or drink bottles of wine. My bottle of wine is a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. So sue me.

You live in a city where the mayor proposes a soda ban, and where you make a Crack Pie that's basically brown sugar, regular sugar, butter, cream, and salt, and Compost Cookies, with chocolate and butterscotch chips, coffee, potato chips and pretzels. Any thoughts?
I think everything is about scale, balance and a healthy attitude and active life. No one’s eating 6 compost cookies in one sitting. It's about working hard and indulging a little, but doing it responsibly for yourself when you deserve it.

Christina Tosi will be cooking alongside Jacqueline Lau, Susan Feniger, and Hawaii women farmers at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in September. Tickets for the brunch are $85 before August 15, $100 after. For more information, visit hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com.

Related articles:
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

- Biting Commentary’s interview with Sang Yoon, another Hawaii Food and Wine Festival chef

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