Most of today’s young, urban food consumers even if they don’t care to admit it, are pretty healthy (on the whole). When we’re not counting calories we’re adding up our five-a-day. We aspire to be skimmed rather than full fat. We’re all-round low-carb people. Christina Tosi, however, has other plans. She would prefer if we indulged a little more often. As the head chef at Milkbar, an offshoot from David Chang’s growing Momofuku empire, she spends her days baking desserts that tempt New Yorkers away from their diets and appeal to their most basic instincts for sweetness. And these are not just any dessert – they’re loud, big-flavor, no-holds- barred, no-fat-spared desserts.

Cookies, for instance, might be made with flour from ground pretzels, while ice cream flavours are inspired by the last milk in a cereal bowl. She even experiments with mixtures such as potato chips and coffee (yes, really). ‘It’s a little off the beaten path,’ admits Christina, ‘but it’s also full of flavour and memorable when you eat it.’ So how do these brash, full-on cookies and cakes, which conflict with today’s advice on food, fit into the lives of today’s New Yorkers? ‘It’s been a challenge to make desserts that find a way into the lives of these health conscious consumers,’ says Christina. ‘We’re playing to the guilty pleasures of what makes desserts so good – and what makes things like pretzels and cornflakes so memorable and worth eating. It’s about playing off the not-too-serious sides of our personalities. It’s soothing and it’s satisfying.’

We’re playing to the guilty pleasures of what makes desserts so good – and what makes things like pretzels and cornflakes

The idea is that today’s urban foodies who mostly eat well and stay healthy – even those casual-but- kinda-serious runners that jog through city parks with heart rate monitors – sometimes need a break. And Christina has hit the spot perfectly, tapping our hidden desires for sweetness and childhood fondness for candy. ‘I think everyone has that snack foodieness in them,’ says Christina. It’s clearly working: Milkbar now boasts five locations across New York. The latest, a huge 1000 square foot café, opened last month in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. ‘It means we can put our cookies, cakes and pies, as well as the personality of Milkbar, into even more hungry mouths in the city and across the US,’ says Christina. ‘While trying to maintain the same feel and intimacy as you get when you eat some Cereal milk.’ So how did she develop such a taste for this excessive food? Some of it can be explained by nurture (‘I get a lot of it from my mom, grandmom and the women who first taught me to bake’), while her experience of working under pastry chefs at restaurants WD-50 and Boule also helped. But most of all, her sweet inspiration comes from her very regular personal encounters with sugary food. To say she has a sweet tooth would be putting it mildly.

She regularly indulges in this food completely unashamedly. She admits, for instance, that a bag of pretzels and a milkshake would suffice for her lunch. ‘I get this inspiration everywhere,’ says Christina, ‘from going to a Dairy Queen to get a Blizzard ice cream to making burgers on the grill at night.’ While her inspiration for recipes come from this primal instinct for sugar, her desire to keep on baking comes from seeing customers sharing the pleasure – and witnessing their pulse start to race upon tucking into the desserts. ‘My favourite part of being at Milkbar is working in the front and seeing a customer’s first bite into a Compost cookie or their first sip of Cereal milk,’ says Christina. ‘It’s really rewarding and keeps you grounded and having fun.’ And having fun is exactly what she intends to keep doing. She plans to continue working with the Momofuku brand (‘I can’t imaging myself working anywhere else’) and to carry on baking cookies, cakes, serving Cereal milk and making city folk throw their diet plans out the window. ‘For me it never gets old,’ says Christina, ‘and that’s why Momofuku Milkbar is what it is today.’