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Momofuku's Christina Tosi Rolling Out Pop-Up Food Truck

Momofuku's Christina Tosi Rolling Out Pop-Up Food Truck

The famed pastry chef will give out thousands of cookies in New York City in collaboration with American Express

It’s the ultimate 2012 food trend mashup: a pop-up cookie truck!

Christina Tosi, best known as the pastry chef behind David Chang’s burgeoning Momofuku restaurant empire and the dessert shop Milk Bar, has partnered with American Express to launch a holiday cookie truck that will be making stops throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn on Saturday, Dec. 15.

It’s part of a marketing campaign meant to showcase American Express’ commitment to helping grow small businesses (Tosi was influenced by her mother, and in just two years has expanded her empire to five bakeries and a commissary), but at the end of the day it’s really just about the free cookies. If you haven’t tried Milk Bar’s cookies (they’re available at her shops as well as the Union Square Holiday Market), you’re missing out.

You can follow the truck’s journey through the city via Twitter by using the hashtag #AmexMakeMyDay, but they’ll also be sticking to the following schedule:

11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.: Stop 1: Central Park South — Columbus Circle Area
12:10 p.m. to 12:55 p.m.: Stop 2: Madison Square Park Area
1:20 p.m. to 2:05 p.m.: Stop 3: Union Square — 16th Street & Union Square West
2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.: Stop 4: SoHo- Houston Street & Greene Street
3:40 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.: Stop 5: Williamsburg — Bedford Avenue & North Seventh Street
4:50 p.m. to 5:35 p.m.: Stop 6: Fort Greene Park — Cumberland Street & Dekalb Avenue

Go get some free cookies!


Momofuku's Christina Tosi Rolling Out Pop-Up Food Truck - Recipes

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
You have been working in restaurants as a day job for a few years now. Tell us about that experience.

BILL
It revealed to me the complex organizational systems, of both the people and the utilities required that operate throughout culinary infrastructure, and how such combinations of individuals and supports of the setting are organized for efficiency, high performance and speed. Moreover, it assists in understanding how certain factors contribute to the formation of the archetypal ‘insane chef’. I feel as though the high-pressure mantra of ‘the push’ is significant, as a driving force, which necessitates a continual challenge against perceived physical limitations. With a longstanding interest in technology, the specificity of a gastronomic context hosted a keen study of specialized culinary equipment, obscure alchemic cooking methods and to what ends these are applied in high-end restaurants. I think also my childhood obsession with gizmos and gadgets has affected how I deal with extremity of gastronomic culture in my work—fixating on specifics, deconstructing mechanisms and then recreating them through a ‘hack’ methodology has been the kind of curiosity which forms the base for several of my works. For example, in learning about sous vide, I built an immersion circulator using an aquarium bubbler and a fish tank temperature controller. More recently though, after working 10 days at a ramen pop-up venue, I became interested in this idea of the experience economy and the particular kind of hype attributed to transient businesses and gastronomic settings. Perhaps too, the hype surrounding the ramen pop-up, and around gastronomic culture in general for me seems to operate similarly to the early stages of Modernism—as opportunities for the ‘new’, ‘exciting’ and ‘memorable’.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
How do you relate to the work of artists like Daniel Spoerri, Rirkrit Tiravanija, etc? And the restaurant experiments of Gordon Matta-Clark, Allen Ruppersberg, etc? Would you open your own restaurant?

BILL
I feel as though there are similarities, but I tend to see my work as the anti-social younger brother. For example Tiravanija’s work from the onset aims to generate social interaction and foster human relationships. However I feel like I’m trying to work towards a one-on-one psychological engagement with the viewer, playing on the potential to trigger a sense of nostalgia or flashes of memory on a level that is unique to each individual, which is, moreover, a strategy used in contemporary gastronomy. Although, aesthetically, I am fond of his ad hoc and temporary set ups, as it feeds into my interest in growing gastronomic trends such as pop-up shops, food trucks, etc, which are all pretty commonplace within Melbourne. In some ways too, I feel like Matta-Clark acts as a precursor to these trends. The performativity of something like Matta-Clark’s restaurant ‘Food’ is particularly interesting in the way that its ideas have perpetuated through concept restaurants like El Bulli, The Fat Duck and Alinea, which incorporate performance acts like cooking tableside, the use of dry ice and liquid nitrogen within the restaurant setting. In this sense, I feel it has become a new kind of theatre for the new bourgeois, in that it has a rehearsed practice for a ‘spectacular’ and ‘magical’ experience. I also like Matta-Clark’s idea of making inedible food and I feel like it correlates in an interesting way with the way contemporary gastronomy has shifted the focus towards the conceptual and the philosophical in presenting their dishes, to the point where complete inedibility seems plausible. But to what extent does this matter? I feel reading Matta-Clark points to such an absurdity present now in gastronomy.

In terms of opening a restaurant, I feel like the whole ‘artists-running-restaurants’ thing has potential, whilst there are similarities between my artistic and gastronomic processes, I also feel, through realizing the scrap, ad hoc nature of my creative processes, that I would completely fail at the coordination and logistics demanded by such a position. Although I would consider making my own pop-up restaurant, after having worked closely with local Pat Breen on his Shophouse Ramen popup project, something like a permanent establishment is not on the radar.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
You are developing a machine, which will create tasteless popcorn while diffusing the smell of melted butter. How does that aspect of deceitfulness play into your interest in sensation as a trigger for nostalgia? Is it as if Proust’s Madeleine had no flavor?

BILL
‘Deceitfulness’ presents connotations that I wouldn’t necessarily figure in my practice. For me it conjures ideas of scamming or deception, whereas I’m trying to utilize a more playful duplicity of senses, trying to prompt a more lighthearted reaction. Olfactory sensations are strongly connected with memory, and it is interesting that while the melted butter smell when diffused has quite a sweet artificial pungency, it still triggers an association with popcorn. I’m currently working on making a fully automated popcorn dispensary system, but funnily enough it still requires artificial means to actually prompt these associations. I find the smell of popcorn has a strong nostalgic attachment for a lot of people, and the prankster move of suggesting flavor with scent I see as a reflection of the multi-sensory quality of memory, and am thus aiming at presenting as many opportunities for senses to be crossed as I can. Whilst Proust’s Madeline’s memory is led by taste, the popcorn machine seeks to present the viewer with the tug of several sensations and associations, drawing upon the ritualism inherent in high-end gastronomy. What these restaurants do is align memory with the totality of dining experience rather than a single sensation, and I’m hoping to question what the effects of targeting multiple sensations has on the way memory comes to be manufactured.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Last week Restaurant Magazine announced El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, as the world’s best restaurant. What do you consider the world’s best restaurant and if you had the opportunity, what would you discuss with the chef of El Celler?

BILL
I was surprised to see Noma knocked off the top spot, considering the shift in recent years from molecular gastronomy to nature-based cuisine. Although I do feel like nature-based cuisine essentially builds on foundations laid by molecular gastronomy. Places like Noma and Quay still use many of the techniques and specialized equipment pioneered in the molecular movement. I find El Celler de Can Roca holds a certain resemblance to El Bulli, in its way of using science to generate playful experiences. With Joan and Jordi of El Celler, I would be interested in discussing the processes undertaken to form their cuisine. Does it start with technology and techniques? Or does the memory or concept form the foundation from which to proceed? Regardless, I find the process of ranking restaurants inherently problematic, as applying a ranking system has its limitations on how we perceive their importance in their respective locations, cultures, approaches and practices. I also feel like flagging a ‘world best’ inhibits creative potential in some ways, as it informs a standardization or homogenization of discourse. Establishing an ideal platform of quality and status prompts a status anxiety, which then induces trends, which in themselves limit the possibilities of a more varied gastronomic field. If here, we are considering the elusive notion of ‘innovation’ as the main criteria of judgment, I feel as though Alinea should take a spot as one of the best restaurants in the world. I see Grant Achatz pushing the limits of technicality to the point of generating distinctly innovative ends. For a few years there, when El Bulli was top dog, there was a noticeable replication of the molecular gastronomy techniques practiced by Ferran Adrià. This happened for example, in Melbourne about seven or eight years back, when a local chef created copies of dishes from Alinea and WD-50, and it is these kinds of plagiarism that come with placing restaurants on a pedestal, which concern me somewhat, despite it being unavoidable. I feel like a more personal approach to cuisine, rather than relying on external criteria of status, is required.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Some of the world’s best restaurants are relatively inexpensive, while some others are out of reach for almost anyone. What do you think of the correlation between price and quality when it comes to food?

BILL
I think there is definitely a kind of elitism within high-end gastronomic culture, with the correlation of paying more with ‘experiencing’ more implemented as a kind of blurry measure of quality fueled by the experience economy, and certainly this is significant in determining worth or status like we just discussed. However the issue here is that the high-end settings hold a very inflexible standard of what a ‘proper’ memorable gastronomic experience is, and they reiterate a fixed belief that simply ‘experience is memorable’. Yet, this still manages to spawn a market through a growing pool of food bloggers who attach to the experience as a social status symbol. I personally find that more accessible, informal settings like Momofuku, Milk Bar and Ivan Ramen provide a much richer experience, perhaps because they allow for the diner to enjoy their food without the overbearing pretense of the solemn fine-dining setting. I find places like The Fat Duck, Noma and Vue De Monde build their esteem through inaccessibility, and this idea feeds into my own practice as an extension of that childhood craving for what you can’t have. I feel as though even the valiant attempts of replication cannot satisfy this craving, instead fuelling a sense of deprivation and desire.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What do you think of energy drinks?

BILL
I don’t drink them myself but I can see the appeal as a source of ‘buzz’. When other people drink them, though, I find them to be more of an open declaration of determination, outstanding work ethic and efficiency. Like people trying to tell everybody around them and themselves that they are ‘on a mission’ or ‘burning the candle at both ends’ with something tangible and effective. I don’t know to what ends this corporate ethos is particularly effective, but I do find the marketing and branding of these ‘lifestyle products’ more interesting than the thing as a consumable beverage.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us more about the Food Jammers collective. Have you met them?

BILL
They are three artists based in Toronto, Canada—Micah Donovan, Christopher Martin and Nobu Adilman. Unfortunately I haven’t met them but I am continually studying their work. They tend to enforce a ‘hack’ mentality and amateur inventiveness despite holding a strong understanding of the technicalities of more sophisticated machinery. They make things like taco vending machines, centrifugal pancake makers and flash cooling soda carbonators—and the somewhat basic functions of their products generate a humor through their elaborateness and absurdly specialized industrial design processes. In their show, their deconstruction of existing machines, use of industrial materials, and the demonstration of their craftsmanship and problem solving all create a sense of play and even dry wit. I find that this whole process correlates to a childlike ingenuity and inquisitiveness—l mean, despite access to better tools and a better technical skillset, they are ‘kids’ in that they are still rooted to that primal, uninhibited DIY building process that largely influences my own work.

Making hack tools to do things hack makes it even hacker. There’s a geometric curve, where hack just goes out of control. – Micah Donovan

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Within your contemporaries, whose work do you most relate to? Do you sometimes work collaboratively?

BILL
Probably people like Andy Hudson, Michael Georgetti and Danny Frommer for their more playful kinetic work. I’m particularly drawn to the rawness of the mechanical processes in their work, and as a continuation of my ‘Food Jammers’ interest, the kind of visible crudeness in their mechanisms is something I also see important to demonstrate in my practice. More recently though, I’ve been working with lights and custom electronics partially inspired by the work of Ian Burns and Benjamin Forster. I relate to someone like Burns through that idea of combining readymade objects with custom supports and frames, and the way technology blurs with institutional mediations and contexts. Although I’m not necessarily trying to make ‘accessible’ work, I feel like I can harness nostalgia in a way that has the capacity to connect to a younger audience. I have not collaborated with other artists as of yet—further negotiations still need to take place.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us about the chefs you admire.

BILL
There are a few… Locally, Ben Shewry and Nicolas Poelaert for their understanding of nature based cuisine. Internationally, Ferran Adrià for pioneering the molecular gastronomy trend and bringing specialized equipment and processes into broader use. Grant Achatz for his continuing technical development and innovation, as well his continued online presence and ongoing documentation of ideas. Michel Bras as a pioneer in developing the nature based cuisine now central to much of contemporary gastronomy. Then there are those like Wylie Dufresne and Massimo Bottura whose food is more eccentric and playful, often referencing childhood, low culture and traditional cuisine as culinary concepts. I think of, for example, Dufresne’s play on ‘eggs Benedict’ and Bottura’s ‘broken pie’ and find that it shows a charming wit that characterizes their cuisine. Continuing on the ‘playful’ notion, Momofuku’s David Chang assisting informal dining back to a reputable status—emphasizing his simple but favorite term “delicious”. I also find that Momofuku’s Christina Tosi really works on memory. While cereal milk, pretzels and popping candy may be arguably frowned upon as ‘lowbrow’, the use of these ‘low status’ culinary items within more traditional culinary conventions really assists in sparking memories and sensations typically so far from such contexts. Lastly I admire Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, for the way he strictly adheres himself to new Nordic cuisine. His understanding of cuisine is incredibly complex, and the dishes have a purity in the way they are distilled from their concepts—one which immediately comes to mind is “A tiny slice of top blade from a retired dairy cow, dry aged for nine months, crispy reindeer lichen, fermented green gooseberries, fennel salt”. A real game-changer.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Can you tell us about your unrealized projects? Your dreams? Your utopias?

BILL
I would ideally like to build a chamber vacuum sealer machine. I’m currently working on figuring out the mechanisms involved and how I can recreate them using other machines and materials. Also, more simply, trying to push sound as a memory trigger is something I would like to extend upon. With my popcorn machine I am thinking of connecting a small radio microphone near it, then rigging it to the Raspberry Pi central control unit, and transmitting the amplified sound to nearby radios. Essentially, it would be a kind of surround sound popcorn experience. An ultrasonic bath is also in the works, and also an assemblage of Gastronorm trays and transducers controlled by a 2003 iMac G4. The readapted use of an ultrasonic bath after Modernist Cuisine means this equipment’s function has expanded to a process of ‘cavitation’ when vacuum sealing French fries, and I connect to this convoluted process very strongly. Maybe somehow I don’t fit the overly ambitious artist archetype of my generation—there is no concrete five-year plan or anything. Whilst still considering exhibiting in a formal setting like a gallery, I’m also considering other kinds of spaces to work in—particularly commercial contexts, as I feel they might strengthen the work in some way. With an interest in pop-up shops and industrial design, I’m thinking of assisting in fit out design at some stage, and perhaps this will also inform my work—I think of artists like Sasufi and Brodie Wood, who have work that sits comfortably between art and design, and feel like there are valuable associations to be drawn. Not working to the point of say, opening up a cardboard furniture store, but still operating outside of ‘producing art’ in some way, and hoping to find importance in a simple, satisfactory utopia. Being ‘happy’ in one’s environment is a somewhat simplified way of understanding utopia, but I hope through experiencing it in some way, it might open up to me a more complex idea of what utopia is.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Where are your next exhibitions? What’s planned for 2013?

BILL
I’m currently working with two other artists on an exhibition concerning craft, and while referencing its turbulent status in association with art, celebrating its continued presence and growing acceptance in fine art contexts throughout Melbourne—the working title being Kraftwerk: Ohm Sweet Ohm. I find there is a continuing hesitation to reference ‘craft’ directly in art, with a particular stigma and associated aesthetic still very much attached, and it is through craftsmanship that we hope to bring the debate back to the very essence of fabrication in general. More immediately, I’m looking to exhibit the popcorn machine at an artist-run space locally—something small and tight to really concentrate the scent of melted butter. Planning for 2014, I am currently negotiating with another artist a show that critically deals with the largely unformulated, yet rather strong relationships between art, gastronomy, and local pop-up culture. Their roles in the experience economy and as cultural capital are quite significant, particularly here in Melbourne. On the level of experimentation, working with sounds of heavy duty industrial materials like worksite radios and extraction fans in combination with consumer oriented electronics, further work with the Raspberry Pi microcontroller, and continuing to work through my main material of cardboard. Still no five-year plan though.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Is your time-based art inspired by John Latham? How do time and art even relate?

BILL
On a simple level, I feel like the implicit gap of time reinforced in nostalgic sentiments is a level through which I can engage with the viewer. Through referencing recreational activities of a bygone era, there is a certain ability to control emotional responses in that they act as involuntary triggers of memory. I see Latham’s approach operating similarly to the draw of nostalgia, be it through the more simple relationship between childhood and adulthood. I see the dual trigger of reflection and immediacy of nostalgic reference points as a way of flattening an overview of one’s own existence, trying to reveal to each individual their capacity to reflect on their progress and emergent character.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Are you part a group of artists? A movement?

BILL
As a Melbourne-based artist, although I am not in an artist collective per se, on a basic geographic level I still feel attached to a group. I think the sense of isolation outlined in the Provincialism Problem is no longer a constraint to the Australian art market with the advent of the Internet. Although, I feel like there is still a kind of marginalized mode of production here, with a noticeable consistency in aesthetic from dominant schools. Although perhaps these trends may not be specific to Melbourne, somehow informed by imagery from overseas even, but there is definitely a broader movement around the ubiquitous plywood plank, platform or object. But basically I’m wondering how these micro-aesthetic movements come to be formed. As for something like nostalgia, is such subject matter thought through collectively by way of multiple artists dealing with this? Or, from its nature, can it only be dealt with individually? Arguably it is not that simple, but it still seems required that people find taxonomical conventions to make sense of respective practices— such as ‘dealing with nostalgia’—in order to attempt an understand of the subject matter. In any case, is it still possible for an artist to function, or deal with their subject matter autonomously? Or are they immediately grouped or thematized? On that token, maybe I am in a group, just one that I am simply not aware of.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you write poems?

BILL
Apart from some puns here and there, not really. I see a kind of poetry on the menus of some high-end restaurants, though. Here I mean, the complete lack of adjectives that has become a trend leads to some interesting linguistic outcomes, like one of Alinea’s dishes titled, ‘Lamb……. …………. ’. The elusiveness of some descriptions really serves to heighten anticipation, also then concentrating on ‘total experience’ surrounding the dish, which in itself is a common characteristic of contemporary gastronomy. I see Michel Bras as important in this discussion too, as his food operates like poetry in some ways, or I guess transposing poetic conventions into the way the dishes are composed. I mean, with a dish such as ‘Gargouillou’, which has over 50 ingredients, each has its own importance in the syntax of the dish. It is also constantly changing, and I feel like this improvisation assists in defining this unique poetic language of food.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Who are some Australian pioneers who influenced you?

BILL
I think the two main culinary figures would be Ben Shewry and Shannon Bennett. Shewry I feel brought this notion of ‘foraging’ for food to a more widespread appeal in Australian cuisine, emphasizing a delicacy with nature through sustainable practices, and I think that getting back to basics plays an important role in my own practice. But also, more simply, they were both local examples who contributed in harnessing my interest in the specialized equipment and experience economy of high-end cuisine. Bennett really enforced that notion of ‘dining as experience’ here, for example using a coffee siphon to make bouillabaisse in five minutes. There is also that element of nostalgia inherent in Shewry and Bennett’s working process, though arguably to different ends, but both still using personal memories and experiences as a foundation for their work. For example Shewry’s approach centers around his New Zealand upbringing, whereas Bennett’s work moves to reference his childhood memories in a more playful manner, with dishes like “Lemonade and pop rocks” and “Lamington”.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What role does chance play in your process?

BILL
Well, I guess a lot of solutions I come up with are pretty chancy, with the engineering usually determined throughout the haphazard working process. There are a lot of creative decisions determined by just constantly shifting the plans and the structure as I make the work, and working predominantly with cardboard allows this kind of flexibility to take place quite easily. Rather than strictly defining the model for construction before making the work, #hacksolutions allow happy accidents and unforeseen technical hurdles to work together in strengthening the conceptual foundations of my work, and I find reacting instinctively rather than methodically really makes for some innovative technicalities.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Did the computer or does the computer change the way you work?

BILL
Despite having a pretty hands-on approach, I definitely still see computers informing my works, as most gadgets usually have. Though, through the Internet, I can sift through niche forums, video tutorials and sites about gastronomic and art culture trends, upon which content I heavily draw influence and technical skill sets, with a lot of the passionate amateur hobbyists on YouTube really influencing my working process. This instant transfer of information, too, really serves as a fertile platform of feedback, although quite swiftly and informally. Here, thinking of someone ‘following’ or ‘liking’ on Instagram as generating an efficient global circuit really makes for interesting new forms of valuation and critique of art, as simplistic as they are. On a more basic level though, I am pretty fond of word processing.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
When did you have or use your first computer?

BILL
In 1993, a year after I was born. It was a Macintosh Classic, naturally. I have since then always used Mac computers. This is why I’m particularly keen to get out my old 2003 iMac G4 and incorporate it into my work somehow, with the nostalgia around outdated forms of technology interesting as an inevitable result of being raised in an era of rapid technological growth. How many young artists remember Kid Pix?

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Would you describe your reproduction of devices as reverse engineering?

BILL
I think it definitely draws upon those principles in some way. The process reverses in the sense that a basic inquisitiveness and curiosity leads me to work backwards through mechanisms and functions, and then moves forward again in recreating hack solutions. I use self taught carpentry and engineering techniques, but translated wholly to cardboard-based structures, so a lot of it isn’t too easy to teach yourself as there is no foundational knowledge, compared to a practice revolving around wood or metalwork. But in looking at other materials, for example in the immersion circulator, I made the work carry out the same function as a $1000 Polyscience water bath but instead using an aquarium bubbler, water boiler, fish tank temperature controller, so that reverse engineering and hack solutions were pretty significant in that process. I feel like this sort of amateur reproduction of specialist equipment is amusing in its potential failure, and also absurd in its means of continually attempting to generate alternative mechanical systems.


Polyscience 7306c, 2013. Cardboard, gastronorm, aquarium bubbler, immersion heating element, aquarium temperature controller, sensor. Photograph by Morgan Jones

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What devices does a contemporary home kitchen need? What device would you like to invent?

BILL
It depends on the type of user really. I mean someone who is all about quick-’n’-easy meals probably won’t braise meat at 60° for 2 days. So, whilst I think the Immersion Circulator is an incredible piece of equipment that should be brought into wider use, I still think it remains a step too far for home kitchens at this stage. I think that the divide between home cooking and restaurant cooking will still continue for a while, despite various books by Noma, Faviken and Alinea revealing more complex and involved processes, which wouldn’t necessarily feature in more ‘accessible’ cooking texts. Although, this argument for ‘accessibility’ bores me a bit, as it implies a ‘fail proof’ method but also manages to bypass even the most basic techniques—here I think of microwave egg poachers and the ‘slap chop’, which seem to complicate a fairly simple process, despite their promise for ease and efficiency. You know, these consumers could really learn a lot by simple trial and error, which is a working method I’m not only fond of, but which I feel can lead to ingenious breakthroughs. On a basic level, you can really do a lot with a knife, some burners and some pans, but a lot of punters even resort to that easier chopping alternative. So in that sense, I think these sorts of products have potential to inhibit creativity to a certain degree, although, they also hold the capacity for new adapted functions. Like the El Bulli 40-second microwave sponge technique, which is a legitimate technique within high-end contexts. I mean, despite the sort of over-designed nature of these products, I think they can hold host to more creative outcomes, with the application of a more creative technical mentality. In saying all that, though, I hope that the Immersion Circulator becomes as ubiquitous and domesticized as the rice cooker, or the electric kettle. Personally, I’ve thought about making a sort of small-scale meat-smoking device, but I don’t know how economically or ecologically sound my solution to the project would be.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you listen to music while cooking at home? Do you cook at home at all? What do you cook?

BILL
Not at home, but during the ramen pop-up we were cranking some Kraftwerk during prep and service and that really came to suit the whole experience. I mean, the cross cultural appropriation in reinterpreting ramen was echoed somehow in Kraftwerk’s music, in that their translation from German to English lyrics didn’t always make quite perfect sense. I liked the way it made a kind of self-deprecating setting in which to experience the noodles, with the self-aware irony in white dudes cooking their own ramen really pushed to the foreground. On a day-to-day level though, I usually stay in the studio late during the week, or I’m cooking in a commercial kitchen on weekends, so my own meals are relatively simple, like bread and cheese and cured meats. Although I want to spend more time with my charcoal BBQ—there is something very primal about cooking over coals and fire, and smoke is the greatest seasoning of all. Maybe this carnivorous attitude doesn’t make me necessarily sit in with the vegan/gluten-free artist archetype so typical to Melbourne, but anyway. I think this interest sits within the trending rediscovery of ancient cooking techniques within international gastronomic circuits you just have to look at Magnus Nilsson’s dish of bone marrow cooked over coals, sawed in half to order.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What is your favorite recipe? Your dream meal?

BILL
Pig. It’s on trend for a reason. Whole suckling pig cooked over coals would have to be pretty close to my version of gastronomic perfection. As for dream meals within existing restaurant settings, I would love to have the opportunity to dine at Noma, Alinea, Momofuku and WD-50. These places are indeed a class above in the experiences they present.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What do you consider the most inspiring occurrences of meals/food preparation in art history and cinema?

BILL
I consider Tampopo as one of the best cinematic expressions of cuisine and gastronomic culture ever made. It managed to capture the complexity and obsession of ramen within this sort of absurd western genre. It reveals the sort of precision and care surrounding this very casual, informally consumed dish of ramen, and the embedded passion that comes across with a devotion to the dish. I think it comes back to this notion of craftsmanship and this investment of time in order to develop a richer understanding of your craft, process and resulting product. As for art history, I guess The Last Supper is worth noting…

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
In the lyrics for his “Boyfriend” hit song, teen idol Justin Bieber describes a moment “Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue”. The Guardian identified it as one of the “Five Signs that [he] might be losing it”. What do you think it says about the gastronomy trends of the 89plus generation?

BILL
I haven’t heard the song, but I had a look at the lyrics, and I’m not certain if this is just a simple lyrical gap-filler or if it aims to comment deeper on the gastronomic experiences of a ’90s child. I have fond memories of ‘chillin’ by the fire’ but I cannot say I have had the luxury of eating ‘fondue’ by the flames. In terms of practicality, I can’t really see fondue being suitable for a campfire setting at this stage either. Although if I really had to tug at the relationship it has with broader phenomena of gastronomy, perhaps it is simply the way mainstream products have capitalized on the informal and playful childhood experiences with food—I’m thinking here of those ‘ready-to-share’ chocolate bars, lollies and ice creams. But also, I think an entire form of cuisine from this has become more mainstream and accepted, and not simply a gastronomically frowned upon novelty. In saying all that though, I’m pretty sure he be ‘eatin’ fondue’ because it rhymes with ‘you’.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you have pseudonyms? Raoul Vaneigem told us it’s urgent to have pseudonyms.

BILL
Well, I’m on Instagram @bpnoonan, so this is the closest thing I’ve got. It’s my online pseudonym. I see web presence distinguished from physical reality and engagement as quite an interesting shift for the art community, and I feel like the only notion of ʻpseudonymʼ people really have now is from their online profiles or avatars.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your biggest work?

BILL
In terms of scale, the extractor hood has been by far the largest. Although in terms of time spent engineering, starting with mechanisms from scratch in the popcorn machine is proving quite time-consuming and labor intensive at the moment. But if I’m thinking about time spent troubleshooting, I would have to say the immersion circulator was quite a heavy task—convincing staff that something self-manufactured combining water, cardboard and heat was safe enough to exhibit, while not electrocuting myself in the process, was a little difficult.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your smallest work?

BILL
Outside of process sketches, one work last year titled ʻ63/63ʼ was a series of works made by vacuum sealing frozen ink with 10x10cm pieces of paper in plastic, and then placing it in a controlled temperature bath of 63 degrees for 63 hours. This work was a direct response to the sous vide technique, and was one of the first works I made that dealt directly with gastronomic processes.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Are you a doodler?

BILL
Not really. Perhaps I don’t match that ʻdrawerʼ archetype compelled to draw 24 HOURS A DAY. My approach to it is pretty methodical and controlled. Drawing for me acts like a tool for developing and analyzing technicalities that arise in the process, although in saying that, there is still that unconfined doodling aspect in the freehand execution of my drawings. So I do enjoy that prosaic ʻpen on paperʼ but don’t feel an urge to scribble all the time.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s the newest work you created yesterday OR TODAY?

BILL
A 1.2m wide diffused fluoro ballast within a bespoke cardboard frame. Iʼm not sure whether Iʼll be using it for the extraction hood, or just alone on brackets, but I feel the fluorescent tube’s ubiquitous presence in both kitchens and contemporary art spaces is an interesting parallel.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your favorite museum?

BILL
I think MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, with the juxtapositions it draws directly with old and new art being quite an interesting vision. It proposes a re-thinking of traditional museological display, and by drawing on these conventions reveals something about the very nature of contemporary art today.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you have dreams?

BILL
Some nights in the ramen pop-up shop, when I was working 16-18 hours a day, I started to dream about ramen too, and it was great. Relating that experience to something like that film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, with a figure so wholly dedicated to his craft, is a continued point of fascination for me, and one that I feel demonstrates a rich commitment to oneself and their practice.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us about an exhibition that inspired you.

BILL
In the Telling by Ian Burns. He constructed a series of kinetic sculptures imbedded with small cameras generating real time video works. Also through lights, glass, powerboards and other industrial materials, his playful manipulation of complex engineering and electronics was, for me, quite wonderful to experience. That whole relationship between heavy processes and a lighthearted encounter is a duality that Iʼm really trying to work with in my practice, particularly in the popcorn project.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do politics and art mingle?

BILL
I think they definitely influence and inform each other. I feel like Boris Groys puts it pretty well in that “the goal of art, after all, is not to change things. Things are changing by themselves all the time anyway. Art’s function is rather to show, to make visible the realities that are generally overlooked.” So here, while politics really works to effectuate change, artists tend to focus on the processes of such change, and the resulting impact of such changes. But they definitely overlap—art influences and is at the same time influenced by politics. Because of this, I still find ‘political artist’ a pretty loaded label, and I can understand why artists are pretty hesitant in adopting this stance, as it does seem slightly tautological.

Bill Noonan met with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in Melbourne, Australia for the 89plus interviews series thanks to John Kaldor Public Art Projects.

89plus is an international research project inquiring about the generation of creative minds born in and after 1989.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is the co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, and co-curator of 89plus. He is based in London.

Simon Castets is an independent curator and co-curator of 89plus. He is based in New York.

Artist Bill Noonan met with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in Melbourne, Australia for the 89plus interviews series to discuss food, chance and immersion circulators.

Hans Ulrich Obrist & Simon Castets Interview Bill Noonan
S/S 2013

Artist Bill Noonan met with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in Melbourne, Australia for the 89plus interviews series to discuss food, chance and immersion circulators.

Hans Ulrich Obrist & Simon Castets Interview Bill Noonan
S/S 2013

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
You have been working in restaurants as a day job for a few years now. Tell us about that experience.

BILL
It revealed to me the complex organizational systems, of both the people and the utilities required that operate throughout culinary infrastructure, and how such combinations of individuals and supports of the setting are organized for efficiency, high performance and speed. Moreover, it assists in understanding how certain factors contribute to the formation of the archetypal ‘insane chef’. I feel as though the high-pressure mantra of ‘the push’ is significant, as a driving force, which necessitates a continual challenge against perceived physical limitations. With a longstanding interest in technology, the specificity of a gastronomic context hosted a keen study of specialized culinary equipment, obscure alchemic cooking methods and to what ends these are applied in high-end restaurants. I think also my childhood obsession with gizmos and gadgets has affected how I deal with extremity of gastronomic culture in my work—fixating on specifics, deconstructing mechanisms and then recreating them through a ‘hack’ methodology has been the kind of curiosity which forms the base for several of my works. For example, in learning about sous vide, I built an immersion circulator using an aquarium bubbler and a fish tank temperature controller. More recently though, after working 10 days at a ramen pop-up venue, I became interested in this idea of the experience economy and the particular kind of hype attributed to transient businesses and gastronomic settings. Perhaps too, the hype surrounding the ramen pop-up, and around gastronomic culture in general for me seems to operate similarly to the early stages of Modernism—as opportunities for the ‘new’, ‘exciting’ and ‘memorable’.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
How do you relate to the work of artists like Daniel Spoerri, Rirkrit Tiravanija, etc? And the restaurant experiments of Gordon Matta-Clark, Allen Ruppersberg, etc? Would you open your own restaurant?

BILL
I feel as though there are similarities, but I tend to see my work as the anti-social younger brother. For example Tiravanija’s work from the onset aims to generate social interaction and foster human relationships. However I feel like I’m trying to work towards a one-on-one psychological engagement with the viewer, playing on the potential to trigger a sense of nostalgia or flashes of memory on a level that is unique to each individual, which is, moreover, a strategy used in contemporary gastronomy. Although, aesthetically, I am fond of his ad hoc and temporary set ups, as it feeds into my interest in growing gastronomic trends such as pop-up shops, food trucks, etc, which are all pretty commonplace within Melbourne. In some ways too, I feel like Matta-Clark acts as a precursor to these trends. The performativity of something like Matta-Clark’s restaurant ‘Food’ is particularly interesting in the way that its ideas have perpetuated through concept restaurants like El Bulli, The Fat Duck and Alinea, which incorporate performance acts like cooking tableside, the use of dry ice and liquid nitrogen within the restaurant setting. In this sense, I feel it has become a new kind of theatre for the new bourgeois, in that it has a rehearsed practice for a ‘spectacular’ and ‘magical’ experience. I also like Matta-Clark’s idea of making inedible food and I feel like it correlates in an interesting way with the way contemporary gastronomy has shifted the focus towards the conceptual and the philosophical in presenting their dishes, to the point where complete inedibility seems plausible. But to what extent does this matter? I feel reading Matta-Clark points to such an absurdity present now in gastronomy.

In terms of opening a restaurant, I feel like the whole ‘artists-running-restaurants’ thing has potential, whilst there are similarities between my artistic and gastronomic processes, I also feel, through realizing the scrap, ad hoc nature of my creative processes, that I would completely fail at the coordination and logistics demanded by such a position. Although I would consider making my own pop-up restaurant, after having worked closely with local Pat Breen on his Shophouse Ramen popup project, something like a permanent establishment is not on the radar.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
You are developing a machine, which will create tasteless popcorn while diffusing the smell of melted butter. How does that aspect of deceitfulness play into your interest in sensation as a trigger for nostalgia? Is it as if Proust’s Madeleine had no flavor?

BILL
‘Deceitfulness’ presents connotations that I wouldn’t necessarily figure in my practice. For me it conjures ideas of scamming or deception, whereas I’m trying to utilize a more playful duplicity of senses, trying to prompt a more lighthearted reaction. Olfactory sensations are strongly connected with memory, and it is interesting that while the melted butter smell when diffused has quite a sweet artificial pungency, it still triggers an association with popcorn. I’m currently working on making a fully automated popcorn dispensary system, but funnily enough it still requires artificial means to actually prompt these associations. I find the smell of popcorn has a strong nostalgic attachment for a lot of people, and the prankster move of suggesting flavor with scent I see as a reflection of the multi-sensory quality of memory, and am thus aiming at presenting as many opportunities for senses to be crossed as I can. Whilst Proust’s Madeline’s memory is led by taste, the popcorn machine seeks to present the viewer with the tug of several sensations and associations, drawing upon the ritualism inherent in high-end gastronomy. What these restaurants do is align memory with the totality of dining experience rather than a single sensation, and I’m hoping to question what the effects of targeting multiple sensations has on the way memory comes to be manufactured.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Last week Restaurant Magazine announced El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, as the world’s best restaurant. What do you consider the world’s best restaurant and if you had the opportunity, what would you discuss with the chef of El Celler?

BILL
I was surprised to see Noma knocked off the top spot, considering the shift in recent years from molecular gastronomy to nature-based cuisine. Although I do feel like nature-based cuisine essentially builds on foundations laid by molecular gastronomy. Places like Noma and Quay still use many of the techniques and specialized equipment pioneered in the molecular movement. I find El Celler de Can Roca holds a certain resemblance to El Bulli, in its way of using science to generate playful experiences. With Joan and Jordi of El Celler, I would be interested in discussing the processes undertaken to form their cuisine. Does it start with technology and techniques? Or does the memory or concept form the foundation from which to proceed? Regardless, I find the process of ranking restaurants inherently problematic, as applying a ranking system has its limitations on how we perceive their importance in their respective locations, cultures, approaches and practices. I also feel like flagging a ‘world best’ inhibits creative potential in some ways, as it informs a standardization or homogenization of discourse. Establishing an ideal platform of quality and status prompts a status anxiety, which then induces trends, which in themselves limit the possibilities of a more varied gastronomic field. If here, we are considering the elusive notion of ‘innovation’ as the main criteria of judgment, I feel as though Alinea should take a spot as one of the best restaurants in the world. I see Grant Achatz pushing the limits of technicality to the point of generating distinctly innovative ends. For a few years there, when El Bulli was top dog, there was a noticeable replication of the molecular gastronomy techniques practiced by Ferran Adrià. This happened for example, in Melbourne about seven or eight years back, when a local chef created copies of dishes from Alinea and WD-50, and it is these kinds of plagiarism that come with placing restaurants on a pedestal, which concern me somewhat, despite it being unavoidable. I feel like a more personal approach to cuisine, rather than relying on external criteria of status, is required.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Some of the world’s best restaurants are relatively inexpensive, while some others are out of reach for almost anyone. What do you think of the correlation between price and quality when it comes to food?

BILL
I think there is definitely a kind of elitism within high-end gastronomic culture, with the correlation of paying more with ‘experiencing’ more implemented as a kind of blurry measure of quality fueled by the experience economy, and certainly this is significant in determining worth or status like we just discussed. However the issue here is that the high-end settings hold a very inflexible standard of what a ‘proper’ memorable gastronomic experience is, and they reiterate a fixed belief that simply ‘experience is memorable’. Yet, this still manages to spawn a market through a growing pool of food bloggers who attach to the experience as a social status symbol. I personally find that more accessible, informal settings like Momofuku, Milk Bar and Ivan Ramen provide a much richer experience, perhaps because they allow for the diner to enjoy their food without the overbearing pretense of the solemn fine-dining setting. I find places like The Fat Duck, Noma and Vue De Monde build their esteem through inaccessibility, and this idea feeds into my own practice as an extension of that childhood craving for what you can’t have. I feel as though even the valiant attempts of replication cannot satisfy this craving, instead fuelling a sense of deprivation and desire.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What do you think of energy drinks?

BILL
I don’t drink them myself but I can see the appeal as a source of ‘buzz’. When other people drink them, though, I find them to be more of an open declaration of determination, outstanding work ethic and efficiency. Like people trying to tell everybody around them and themselves that they are ‘on a mission’ or ‘burning the candle at both ends’ with something tangible and effective. I don’t know to what ends this corporate ethos is particularly effective, but I do find the marketing and branding of these ‘lifestyle products’ more interesting than the thing as a consumable beverage.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us more about the Food Jammers collective. Have you met them?

BILL
They are three artists based in Toronto, Canada—Micah Donovan, Christopher Martin and Nobu Adilman. Unfortunately I haven’t met them but I am continually studying their work. They tend to enforce a ‘hack’ mentality and amateur inventiveness despite holding a strong understanding of the technicalities of more sophisticated machinery. They make things like taco vending machines, centrifugal pancake makers and flash cooling soda carbonators—and the somewhat basic functions of their products generate a humor through their elaborateness and absurdly specialized industrial design processes. In their show, their deconstruction of existing machines, use of industrial materials, and the demonstration of their craftsmanship and problem solving all create a sense of play and even dry wit. I find that this whole process correlates to a childlike ingenuity and inquisitiveness—l mean, despite access to better tools and a better technical skillset, they are ‘kids’ in that they are still rooted to that primal, uninhibited DIY building process that largely influences my own work.

Making hack tools to do things hack makes it even hacker. There’s a geometric curve, where hack just goes out of control. – Micah Donovan

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Within your contemporaries, whose work do you most relate to? Do you sometimes work collaboratively?

BILL
Probably people like Andy Hudson, Michael Georgetti and Danny Frommer for their more playful kinetic work. I’m particularly drawn to the rawness of the mechanical processes in their work, and as a continuation of my ‘Food Jammers’ interest, the kind of visible crudeness in their mechanisms is something I also see important to demonstrate in my practice. More recently though, I’ve been working with lights and custom electronics partially inspired by the work of Ian Burns and Benjamin Forster. I relate to someone like Burns through that idea of combining readymade objects with custom supports and frames, and the way technology blurs with institutional mediations and contexts. Although I’m not necessarily trying to make ‘accessible’ work, I feel like I can harness nostalgia in a way that has the capacity to connect to a younger audience. I have not collaborated with other artists as of yet—further negotiations still need to take place.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us about the chefs you admire.

BILL
There are a few… Locally, Ben Shewry and Nicolas Poelaert for their understanding of nature based cuisine. Internationally, Ferran Adrià for pioneering the molecular gastronomy trend and bringing specialized equipment and processes into broader use. Grant Achatz for his continuing technical development and innovation, as well his continued online presence and ongoing documentation of ideas. Michel Bras as a pioneer in developing the nature based cuisine now central to much of contemporary gastronomy. Then there are those like Wylie Dufresne and Massimo Bottura whose food is more eccentric and playful, often referencing childhood, low culture and traditional cuisine as culinary concepts. I think of, for example, Dufresne’s play on ‘eggs Benedict’ and Bottura’s ‘broken pie’ and find that it shows a charming wit that characterizes their cuisine. Continuing on the ‘playful’ notion, Momofuku’s David Chang assisting informal dining back to a reputable status—emphasizing his simple but favorite term “delicious”. I also find that Momofuku’s Christina Tosi really works on memory. While cereal milk, pretzels and popping candy may be arguably frowned upon as ‘lowbrow’, the use of these ‘low status’ culinary items within more traditional culinary conventions really assists in sparking memories and sensations typically so far from such contexts. Lastly I admire Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, for the way he strictly adheres himself to new Nordic cuisine. His understanding of cuisine is incredibly complex, and the dishes have a purity in the way they are distilled from their concepts—one which immediately comes to mind is “A tiny slice of top blade from a retired dairy cow, dry aged for nine months, crispy reindeer lichen, fermented green gooseberries, fennel salt”. A real game-changer.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Can you tell us about your unrealized projects? Your dreams? Your utopias?

BILL
I would ideally like to build a chamber vacuum sealer machine. I’m currently working on figuring out the mechanisms involved and how I can recreate them using other machines and materials. Also, more simply, trying to push sound as a memory trigger is something I would like to extend upon. With my popcorn machine I am thinking of connecting a small radio microphone near it, then rigging it to the Raspberry Pi central control unit, and transmitting the amplified sound to nearby radios. Essentially, it would be a kind of surround sound popcorn experience. An ultrasonic bath is also in the works, and also an assemblage of Gastronorm trays and transducers controlled by a 2003 iMac G4. The readapted use of an ultrasonic bath after Modernist Cuisine means this equipment’s function has expanded to a process of ‘cavitation’ when vacuum sealing French fries, and I connect to this convoluted process very strongly. Maybe somehow I don’t fit the overly ambitious artist archetype of my generation—there is no concrete five-year plan or anything. Whilst still considering exhibiting in a formal setting like a gallery, I’m also considering other kinds of spaces to work in—particularly commercial contexts, as I feel they might strengthen the work in some way. With an interest in pop-up shops and industrial design, I’m thinking of assisting in fit out design at some stage, and perhaps this will also inform my work—I think of artists like Sasufi and Brodie Wood, who have work that sits comfortably between art and design, and feel like there are valuable associations to be drawn. Not working to the point of say, opening up a cardboard furniture store, but still operating outside of ‘producing art’ in some way, and hoping to find importance in a simple, satisfactory utopia. Being ‘happy’ in one’s environment is a somewhat simplified way of understanding utopia, but I hope through experiencing it in some way, it might open up to me a more complex idea of what utopia is.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Where are your next exhibitions? What’s planned for 2013?

BILL
I’m currently working with two other artists on an exhibition concerning craft, and while referencing its turbulent status in association with art, celebrating its continued presence and growing acceptance in fine art contexts throughout Melbourne—the working title being Kraftwerk: Ohm Sweet Ohm. I find there is a continuing hesitation to reference ‘craft’ directly in art, with a particular stigma and associated aesthetic still very much attached, and it is through craftsmanship that we hope to bring the debate back to the very essence of fabrication in general. More immediately, I’m looking to exhibit the popcorn machine at an artist-run space locally—something small and tight to really concentrate the scent of melted butter. Planning for 2014, I am currently negotiating with another artist a show that critically deals with the largely unformulated, yet rather strong relationships between art, gastronomy, and local pop-up culture. Their roles in the experience economy and as cultural capital are quite significant, particularly here in Melbourne. On the level of experimentation, working with sounds of heavy duty industrial materials like worksite radios and extraction fans in combination with consumer oriented electronics, further work with the Raspberry Pi microcontroller, and continuing to work through my main material of cardboard. Still no five-year plan though.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Is your time-based art inspired by John Latham? How do time and art even relate?

BILL
On a simple level, I feel like the implicit gap of time reinforced in nostalgic sentiments is a level through which I can engage with the viewer. Through referencing recreational activities of a bygone era, there is a certain ability to control emotional responses in that they act as involuntary triggers of memory. I see Latham’s approach operating similarly to the draw of nostalgia, be it through the more simple relationship between childhood and adulthood. I see the dual trigger of reflection and immediacy of nostalgic reference points as a way of flattening an overview of one’s own existence, trying to reveal to each individual their capacity to reflect on their progress and emergent character.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Are you part a group of artists? A movement?

BILL
As a Melbourne-based artist, although I am not in an artist collective per se, on a basic geographic level I still feel attached to a group. I think the sense of isolation outlined in the Provincialism Problem is no longer a constraint to the Australian art market with the advent of the Internet. Although, I feel like there is still a kind of marginalized mode of production here, with a noticeable consistency in aesthetic from dominant schools. Although perhaps these trends may not be specific to Melbourne, somehow informed by imagery from overseas even, but there is definitely a broader movement around the ubiquitous plywood plank, platform or object. But basically I’m wondering how these micro-aesthetic movements come to be formed. As for something like nostalgia, is such subject matter thought through collectively by way of multiple artists dealing with this? Or, from its nature, can it only be dealt with individually? Arguably it is not that simple, but it still seems required that people find taxonomical conventions to make sense of respective practices— such as ‘dealing with nostalgia’—in order to attempt an understand of the subject matter. In any case, is it still possible for an artist to function, or deal with their subject matter autonomously? Or are they immediately grouped or thematized? On that token, maybe I am in a group, just one that I am simply not aware of.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you write poems?

BILL
Apart from some puns here and there, not really. I see a kind of poetry on the menus of some high-end restaurants, though. Here I mean, the complete lack of adjectives that has become a trend leads to some interesting linguistic outcomes, like one of Alinea’s dishes titled, ‘Lamb……. …………. ’. The elusiveness of some descriptions really serves to heighten anticipation, also then concentrating on ‘total experience’ surrounding the dish, which in itself is a common characteristic of contemporary gastronomy. I see Michel Bras as important in this discussion too, as his food operates like poetry in some ways, or I guess transposing poetic conventions into the way the dishes are composed. I mean, with a dish such as ‘Gargouillou’, which has over 50 ingredients, each has its own importance in the syntax of the dish. It is also constantly changing, and I feel like this improvisation assists in defining this unique poetic language of food.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Who are some Australian pioneers who influenced you?

BILL
I think the two main culinary figures would be Ben Shewry and Shannon Bennett. Shewry I feel brought this notion of ‘foraging’ for food to a more widespread appeal in Australian cuisine, emphasizing a delicacy with nature through sustainable practices, and I think that getting back to basics plays an important role in my own practice. But also, more simply, they were both local examples who contributed in harnessing my interest in the specialized equipment and experience economy of high-end cuisine. Bennett really enforced that notion of ‘dining as experience’ here, for example using a coffee siphon to make bouillabaisse in five minutes. There is also that element of nostalgia inherent in Shewry and Bennett’s working process, though arguably to different ends, but both still using personal memories and experiences as a foundation for their work. For example Shewry’s approach centers around his New Zealand upbringing, whereas Bennett’s work moves to reference his childhood memories in a more playful manner, with dishes like “Lemonade and pop rocks” and “Lamington”.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What role does chance play in your process?

BILL
Well, I guess a lot of solutions I come up with are pretty chancy, with the engineering usually determined throughout the haphazard working process. There are a lot of creative decisions determined by just constantly shifting the plans and the structure as I make the work, and working predominantly with cardboard allows this kind of flexibility to take place quite easily. Rather than strictly defining the model for construction before making the work, #hacksolutions allow happy accidents and unforeseen technical hurdles to work together in strengthening the conceptual foundations of my work, and I find reacting instinctively rather than methodically really makes for some innovative technicalities.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Did the computer or does the computer change the way you work?

BILL
Despite having a pretty hands-on approach, I definitely still see computers informing my works, as most gadgets usually have. Though, through the Internet, I can sift through niche forums, video tutorials and sites about gastronomic and art culture trends, upon which content I heavily draw influence and technical skill sets, with a lot of the passionate amateur hobbyists on YouTube really influencing my working process. This instant transfer of information, too, really serves as a fertile platform of feedback, although quite swiftly and informally. Here, thinking of someone ‘following’ or ‘liking’ on Instagram as generating an efficient global circuit really makes for interesting new forms of valuation and critique of art, as simplistic as they are. On a more basic level though, I am pretty fond of word processing.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
When did you have or use your first computer?

BILL
In 1993, a year after I was born. It was a Macintosh Classic, naturally. I have since then always used Mac computers. This is why I’m particularly keen to get out my old 2003 iMac G4 and incorporate it into my work somehow, with the nostalgia around outdated forms of technology interesting as an inevitable result of being raised in an era of rapid technological growth. How many young artists remember Kid Pix?

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Would you describe your reproduction of devices as reverse engineering?

BILL
I think it definitely draws upon those principles in some way. The process reverses in the sense that a basic inquisitiveness and curiosity leads me to work backwards through mechanisms and functions, and then moves forward again in recreating hack solutions. I use self taught carpentry and engineering techniques, but translated wholly to cardboard-based structures, so a lot of it isn’t too easy to teach yourself as there is no foundational knowledge, compared to a practice revolving around wood or metalwork. But in looking at other materials, for example in the immersion circulator, I made the work carry out the same function as a $1000 Polyscience water bath but instead using an aquarium bubbler, water boiler, fish tank temperature controller, so that reverse engineering and hack solutions were pretty significant in that process. I feel like this sort of amateur reproduction of specialist equipment is amusing in its potential failure, and also absurd in its means of continually attempting to generate alternative mechanical systems.


Polyscience 7306c, 2013. Cardboard, gastronorm, aquarium bubbler, immersion heating element, aquarium temperature controller, sensor. Photograph by Morgan Jones

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What devices does a contemporary home kitchen need? What device would you like to invent?

BILL
It depends on the type of user really. I mean someone who is all about quick-’n’-easy meals probably won’t braise meat at 60° for 2 days. So, whilst I think the Immersion Circulator is an incredible piece of equipment that should be brought into wider use, I still think it remains a step too far for home kitchens at this stage. I think that the divide between home cooking and restaurant cooking will still continue for a while, despite various books by Noma, Faviken and Alinea revealing more complex and involved processes, which wouldn’t necessarily feature in more ‘accessible’ cooking texts. Although, this argument for ‘accessibility’ bores me a bit, as it implies a ‘fail proof’ method but also manages to bypass even the most basic techniques—here I think of microwave egg poachers and the ‘slap chop’, which seem to complicate a fairly simple process, despite their promise for ease and efficiency. You know, these consumers could really learn a lot by simple trial and error, which is a working method I’m not only fond of, but which I feel can lead to ingenious breakthroughs. On a basic level, you can really do a lot with a knife, some burners and some pans, but a lot of punters even resort to that easier chopping alternative. So in that sense, I think these sorts of products have potential to inhibit creativity to a certain degree, although, they also hold the capacity for new adapted functions. Like the El Bulli 40-second microwave sponge technique, which is a legitimate technique within high-end contexts. I mean, despite the sort of over-designed nature of these products, I think they can hold host to more creative outcomes, with the application of a more creative technical mentality. In saying all that, though, I hope that the Immersion Circulator becomes as ubiquitous and domesticized as the rice cooker, or the electric kettle. Personally, I’ve thought about making a sort of small-scale meat-smoking device, but I don’t know how economically or ecologically sound my solution to the project would be.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you listen to music while cooking at home? Do you cook at home at all? What do you cook?

BILL
Not at home, but during the ramen pop-up we were cranking some Kraftwerk during prep and service and that really came to suit the whole experience. I mean, the cross cultural appropriation in reinterpreting ramen was echoed somehow in Kraftwerk’s music, in that their translation from German to English lyrics didn’t always make quite perfect sense. I liked the way it made a kind of self-deprecating setting in which to experience the noodles, with the self-aware irony in white dudes cooking their own ramen really pushed to the foreground. On a day-to-day level though, I usually stay in the studio late during the week, or I’m cooking in a commercial kitchen on weekends, so my own meals are relatively simple, like bread and cheese and cured meats. Although I want to spend more time with my charcoal BBQ—there is something very primal about cooking over coals and fire, and smoke is the greatest seasoning of all. Maybe this carnivorous attitude doesn’t make me necessarily sit in with the vegan/gluten-free artist archetype so typical to Melbourne, but anyway. I think this interest sits within the trending rediscovery of ancient cooking techniques within international gastronomic circuits you just have to look at Magnus Nilsson’s dish of bone marrow cooked over coals, sawed in half to order.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What is your favorite recipe? Your dream meal?

BILL
Pig. It’s on trend for a reason. Whole suckling pig cooked over coals would have to be pretty close to my version of gastronomic perfection. As for dream meals within existing restaurant settings, I would love to have the opportunity to dine at Noma, Alinea, Momofuku and WD-50. These places are indeed a class above in the experiences they present.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What do you consider the most inspiring occurrences of meals/food preparation in art history and cinema?

BILL
I consider Tampopo as one of the best cinematic expressions of cuisine and gastronomic culture ever made. It managed to capture the complexity and obsession of ramen within this sort of absurd western genre. It reveals the sort of precision and care surrounding this very casual, informally consumed dish of ramen, and the embedded passion that comes across with a devotion to the dish. I think it comes back to this notion of craftsmanship and this investment of time in order to develop a richer understanding of your craft, process and resulting product. As for art history, I guess The Last Supper is worth noting…

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
In the lyrics for his “Boyfriend” hit song, teen idol Justin Bieber describes a moment “Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue”. The Guardian identified it as one of the “Five Signs that [he] might be losing it”. What do you think it says about the gastronomy trends of the 89plus generation?

BILL
I haven’t heard the song, but I had a look at the lyrics, and I’m not certain if this is just a simple lyrical gap-filler or if it aims to comment deeper on the gastronomic experiences of a ’90s child. I have fond memories of ‘chillin’ by the fire’ but I cannot say I have had the luxury of eating ‘fondue’ by the flames. In terms of practicality, I can’t really see fondue being suitable for a campfire setting at this stage either. Although if I really had to tug at the relationship it has with broader phenomena of gastronomy, perhaps it is simply the way mainstream products have capitalized on the informal and playful childhood experiences with food—I’m thinking here of those ‘ready-to-share’ chocolate bars, lollies and ice creams. But also, I think an entire form of cuisine from this has become more mainstream and accepted, and not simply a gastronomically frowned upon novelty. In saying all that though, I’m pretty sure he be ‘eatin’ fondue’ because it rhymes with ‘you’.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you have pseudonyms? Raoul Vaneigem told us it’s urgent to have pseudonyms.

BILL
Well, I’m on Instagram @bpnoonan, so this is the closest thing I’ve got. It’s my online pseudonym. I see web presence distinguished from physical reality and engagement as quite an interesting shift for the art community, and I feel like the only notion of ʻpseudonymʼ people really have now is from their online profiles or avatars.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your biggest work?

BILL
In terms of scale, the extractor hood has been by far the largest. Although in terms of time spent engineering, starting with mechanisms from scratch in the popcorn machine is proving quite time-consuming and labor intensive at the moment. But if I’m thinking about time spent troubleshooting, I would have to say the immersion circulator was quite a heavy task—convincing staff that something self-manufactured combining water, cardboard and heat was safe enough to exhibit, while not electrocuting myself in the process, was a little difficult.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your smallest work?

BILL
Outside of process sketches, one work last year titled ʻ63/63ʼ was a series of works made by vacuum sealing frozen ink with 10x10cm pieces of paper in plastic, and then placing it in a controlled temperature bath of 63 degrees for 63 hours. This work was a direct response to the sous vide technique, and was one of the first works I made that dealt directly with gastronomic processes.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Are you a doodler?

BILL
Not really. Perhaps I don’t match that ʻdrawerʼ archetype compelled to draw 24 HOURS A DAY. My approach to it is pretty methodical and controlled. Drawing for me acts like a tool for developing and analyzing technicalities that arise in the process, although in saying that, there is still that unconfined doodling aspect in the freehand execution of my drawings. So I do enjoy that prosaic ʻpen on paperʼ but don’t feel an urge to scribble all the time.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s the newest work you created yesterday OR TODAY?

BILL
A 1.2m wide diffused fluoro ballast within a bespoke cardboard frame. Iʼm not sure whether Iʼll be using it for the extraction hood, or just alone on brackets, but I feel the fluorescent tube’s ubiquitous presence in both kitchens and contemporary art spaces is an interesting parallel.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
What’s your favorite museum?

BILL
I think MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, with the juxtapositions it draws directly with old and new art being quite an interesting vision. It proposes a re-thinking of traditional museological display, and by drawing on these conventions reveals something about the very nature of contemporary art today.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do you have dreams?

BILL
Some nights in the ramen pop-up shop, when I was working 16-18 hours a day, I started to dream about ramen too, and it was great. Relating that experience to something like that film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, with a figure so wholly dedicated to his craft, is a continued point of fascination for me, and one that I feel demonstrates a rich commitment to oneself and their practice.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Tell us about an exhibition that inspired you.

BILL
In the Telling by Ian Burns. He constructed a series of kinetic sculptures imbedded with small cameras generating real time video works. Also through lights, glass, powerboards and other industrial materials, his playful manipulation of complex engineering and electronics was, for me, quite wonderful to experience. That whole relationship between heavy processes and a lighthearted encounter is a duality that Iʼm really trying to work with in my practice, particularly in the popcorn project.

HANS ULRICH & SIMON
Do politics and art mingle?

BILL
I think they definitely influence and inform each other. I feel like Boris Groys puts it pretty well in that “the goal of art, after all, is not to change things. Things are changing by themselves all the time anyway. Art’s function is rather to show, to make visible the realities that are generally overlooked.” So here, while politics really works to effectuate change, artists tend to focus on the processes of such change, and the resulting impact of such changes. But they definitely overlap—art influences and is at the same time influenced by politics. Because of this, I still find ‘political artist’ a pretty loaded label, and I can understand why artists are pretty hesitant in adopting this stance, as it does seem slightly tautological.

Bill Noonan met with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in Melbourne, Australia for the 89plus interviews series thanks to John Kaldor Public Art Projects.

89plus is an international research project inquiring about the generation of creative minds born in and after 1989.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is the co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, and co-curator of 89plus. He is based in London.

Simon Castets is an independent curator and co-curator of 89plus. He is based in New York.

Artist Bill Noonan met with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets in Melbourne, Australia for the 89plus interviews series to discuss food, chance and immersion circulators.


Recipe: Horchata Cream Pie

In my quest to both get better at making cream pies and to enjoy eating them I challenged myself to come up with some flavors I enjoy in general. It’s the best kind of inspiration. Then you can fiddle around until the cream filling that embodies the flavor you’re looking for emerges. So I thought to myself, I like horchata. It has tons of rice starch in it. Let’s see if it will thicken if I cook it. Guess what? It did! Of course I played with it a little. Horchata is water-based even if there is some milk in it. The rice soaks in water with the cinnamon overnight. Simply add sugar and puree for the simplest and most common horchata drink. My horchata is milk based and yet to have the right consistency for pie I added a couple of egg yolks and some half and half.

You can use any pie crust from a traditional blind baked butter crust to a cookie crust make from graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies. I made a rolled crust from a graham cracker recipe. But that’s for another day.

1 baked pie crust of your choice
1/4 cup risotto or paella rice
1 cup half and half
3 cups Horchata (be sure to shake it well before you measure it out)2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups whipping cream for topping
Ground Cinnamon for garnish

Cook the rice in the half and half with the pinch of salt. Watch that it doesn’t burn. When the rice is tender set the pan aside. The mixture will be soupy. That’s ok.

Put the horchata and egg yolks in a blender. Blend to mix.
Pour the blended horchata-egg mixture into the rice mixture and heat over medium flame until it all comes to a boil. As it heats use a silicone spatula to sweep the bottom so the mixture doesn’t burn and to keep the faster thickening bottom part of the mixture well mixed into the rest. At a certain point things will start to move quickly. Switch from the spatula to a whisk as the mixture thickens. Allow it to cook at a low boil for at least one to two minutes to get the raw starchy taste tempered down. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.

At this point you can let the mixture cool down a bit or pour it directly into your crust which is what I prefer to do. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the filling so that a skin doesn’t form Refrigerate the pie.

Before serving, beat the unsweetened cream to top the pie. Top the pie making swoops and swirls then carefully sift on a bit of ground cinnamon. The pie will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days (if it lasts that long).


Feast Portland 2013: Christina Tosi on Milk Bar, Lucky Peach and Portland as Momofuku retirement community (Q&A)

Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi will take part in this year's Feast Portland food and drinks festival.

(Courtesy of Christina Tosi)

Feast Portland, the Pacific Northwest's premier food and drink festival, is back this year with a familiar lineup of events and the addition of several fresh faces. (Tickets are available at

Earlier this month, The Oregonian spoke by phone with three of the festival's headlining chefs: "Top Chef" Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard, Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi and the Walrus and the Carpenter chef Renee Erickson. Our

ran earlier today. Below is our interview with Tosi. Check back later this afternoon to hear from

. Early tomorrow, we'll bring you 10 great things to eat, drink, see and do that haven't sold out yet.

Christina Tosi built the dessert program at several of chef David Chang's lauded Momofuku restaurants in New York before branching off with her own spot, Momofuku Milk Bar, in 2008. Thanks to a 2011 cookbook, a 2012 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award, and desserts with names as fun to say as they are to eat -- Crack Pie, Cereal Milk, Compost Cookies -- Tosi has become one of the most buzzed-about bakers in the country. She spoke to The Oregonian about how she can't keep still and why Portland has become a retirement community for ex-Momofuku chefs. Her answers have been edited for clarity and length.


Ben & Jerry’s Blatantly Rips Off Christina Tosi’s ‘Cereal Milk’

The kooky scoop-slingers at Ben & Jerry’s are rolling out a new type of ice cream that looks like a direct knock-off of Christina Tosi’s Cereal Milk soft serve. The product line also draws inspiration from a trio of big brand-name cereals, so this is essentially a nesting doll of pilfered sweets conceits. Dubbed Cereal Splashbacks, the new in-store-only ice cream is available in three flavors: Fruit Loot (in the vein of Fruit Loops), Frozen Flakes (an emulation of Frosted Flakes), and Cocoa Loco (mimicking Cocoa Puffs).

Christina Tosi did not invent “cereal milk” — people have been making that stuff by accident for as long as cereal has been on grocery shelves. But Christina Tosi did invent Cereal Milk, a refined version of the thing you liked as a kid. Tosi gave the world Cereal Milk soft serve, and deluxe Cereal Milk in bottles — both of which have been served at Milk Bar in New York for the last nine years, and they’re now available at its spinoffs in Vegas, D.C., and Toronto.

Milk Bar’s affiliated restaurant group, Momofuku, has an active trademark for Cereal Milk, which is defined as: “Non-nutritionally fortified, non-protein, and non-nutrient based frozen confections and frozen custards made with flavored dairy milk.” That product description could be applied to what Ben & Jerry’s is serving now. On its homepage, Ben & Jerry’s is even pitching this new product line as three “cereal milk ice cream flavors.” But the trademark for Cereal Splashback describes the product as simply: “Ice cream frozen confectionery.”

Team Milk Bar declined to comment on this new rival product. But this is definitely not the first time a major food company has ripped an idea from Christina Tosi and her crew: As you may recall, a company called Bantam Bagels started peddling savory stuffed bagel holes a few years ago that were remarkably similar to Milk Bar’s signature Bagel Bombs. Momofuku emperor David Chang tweeted a dig at Bantam Bagels when he saw their Bagel Bomb knock-offs being sold at Starbucks, but his company did not pursue any legal action.

Stay tuned for any updates on the Cereal Milk Saga as they become available.


New-One-of-A-Kind Recipes Created by Culinary Stars Feature Nestlé® ButterfingerBites®


In honor of the new Butterfinger Bites®, a bite-size version of Nestlé® Butterfinger®, Nestlé is asking dessert experts in the industry to create new recipes that include the crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery Butterfinger Bites.

Two of America’s top pastry chefs will help kick-off a new Butterfinger Bites custom recipe program. Christina Tosi, founder of New York’s wildly popular Momofuku Milk Bar, and “Top Chef: Just Desserts” contestant Sally Camacho Mueller, will take to Facebook to post their one-of-a-kind recipes using the new Butterfinger Bites sweet treats.

“Culinary experts and novice bakers from across the country love to use Butterfinger candy bars as a favorite ingredient in cakes, cookies, ice cream shakes and more,” said Butterfinger spokesperson Tricia Bowles of Nestlé USA, Confections & Snacks Division. “We asked professional chefs and food truck artisans to consider Butterfinger Bites as mix-ins, toppings, decorations and more, and what they came up with was beyond delicious!”

“The flavors and textures of Butterfinger are great additions to so many desserts,” said Tosi, who frequently makes Momofuku Milk Bar pastries from pantry staples and snacks, such as pretzels and potato chips. “It’s going to be fun finding new ways to use the unique taste and texture of Butterfinger!”

Camacho Mueller-- a veteran of Wolfgang Puck’s WP24, Four Seasons Hotels, and the Wynn Resort -- also is poised to blend Butterfinger Bites into a tasty treat to remember. “As a child, Butterfinger was one of my favorite candy bars,” said Camacho Mueller. “I have so many ideas about how I can use Butterfinger in new dessert creations and can’t wait to share them with Butterfinger fans.”

To demonstrate the creative range of the crispety, crunchety candy bar, some of the best dessert food trucks in the U.S. have also been invited to create an exclusive treat using Butterfinger Bites. Beginning June 27 and through the end of the year, the trucks will feature their custom creations as they roll into their favorite parking spots, food festivals and special events across the country. Butterfinger fans can check out Facebook.com/Butterfinger for recipes and participating food truck event stops:

  • Angie’s Cakes (Houston)
  • B Sweet (Los Angeles)
  • BabyCakes (Chicago)
  • Chunk-n-Chip (Los Angeles)
  • Fairycakes (San Jose, Calif.)
  • Gourdoughs (Austin, Texas)
  • Gypsy Scoops (Dallas)
  • La Bella Torte (New York City)
  • Lil’ Mama’s Delicious Desserts ‘n More (Austin, Texas)
  • My Delight Cupcakery (Los Angeles)
  • Mamma Toledo’s (Phoenix)
  • Sweet Box Cupcake (Philadelphia)
  • Sweet Ride (Chicago)
  • Sweet Treats (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Torched Goddess (Phoenix)

Since Butterfinger® first made its sweet debut fans are still laying a finger on America’s favorite crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery candy bar. As part of Butterfinger’s 90-ish birthday celebration this year, fans have experienced the “best of” Butterfinger through a 90-day countdown highlighting the candy bar’s journey from boundary-pushing marketing stunts to the evolution of its candy wrapper designs and endless recipe possibilities. Butterfinger fans are now invited to join in and continue the celebration by sharing their own delicious recipe creations, rate their favorites and recreate new ones on the Butterfinger Recipes tab at Facebook.com/Butterfinger or Butterfinger.com. The 90-ish Butterfinger birthday celebration proved that decades later, even a 90-ish year-old continues to push the limits of fun to new levels while remaining true to its sweet self.

About Butterfinger
Butterfinger is a one-of-a-kind candy bar with the crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery taste people love. No other candy bar comes close to the intense flavor and texture of a Butterfinger. Keep up with the latest news about Butterfinger at Facebook.com/Butterfinger or follow its sweet tweets at Twitter.com/Butterfinger.

About Nestlé USA
Named one of “The World’s Most Admired Food Companies” in Fortune magazine for sixteen consecutive years, Nestlé provides quality brands and products that bring flavor to life every day. From nutritious meals with LEAN CUISINE® to baking traditions with NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE®, Nestlé USA makes delicious, convenient, and nutritious food and beverage products that make good living possible. That’s what “Nestlé. Good Food, Good Life” is all about. Nestlé USA, with 2012 sales of $10 billion, is part of Nestlé S.A. in Vevey, Switzerland — the world’s largest food company with a commitment to Nutrition, Health & Wellness — with 2012 sales of $98 billion. For product news and information, visit Nestleusa.com or Facebook.com/NestleUSA.

CONTACT:
Rhiannon Richards, GolinHarris
[email protected]
213-623-4200


Christina Tosi Explains Why She Thinks Everyone Loves Milk Bar & Her Go-To Eatery in Miami

We sat down with Christina Tosi, the mastermind behind Milk Bar, to discuss what she thinks is the most underrated item at her shop, whether or not she plans on opening a store in Miami, and where she likes to dine in the Magic City.


Christina Tosi.

"I had a very sweet tooth early on," says New York&rsquos undisputed queen of pastry, Christina Tosi, whose Milk Bar churns out highly addictive sweets, including their cake truffles, cookies, crack pies, and cereal milk ice cream. While you can get her saccharine treats delivered right to your door from anywhere in the country, there&rsquos nothing like enjoying it straight from the source&mdashthis is why we can't wait to head to Palm Beach Wine and Food Festival (December 10-13), where Tosi will be doing what she does best: making desserts.

Here, we caught up with the pastry chef to talk about why she thinks her desserts took off the way they did, which items she hopes more people will try at Milk Bar, and where she always dines when she's in the Magic City.

What was your relationship with sugar like as a kid?
CHRISTINA TOSI: I had a very strong relationship with dessert growing up. I was a very stubborn picky eater, so dessert made up a large portion of my diet growing up. My poor mother would just let me do it because at some point, food is food.

Your compost cookies and crack pies have revolutionized the dessert world. What&rsquos the short version behind both, and why do you think they became instant hits?
CT: The compost cookie is a really great mix of salty and sweet. The curious things in it always leave you wanting a little bit more&mdash[there's] authenticity, sensibility, and a sense of humor to it which is why it&rsquos so well-received. You get it when you hear the name, you get it when you eat it, and it teases you and taunts you a little bit so that you are always left wanting a little bit more. The crack pie, funnily enough, was based on reading an old cookbook talking about how pie became what it is. it&rsquos the same thing: it has a sense of humor, authenticity, it&rsquos deeply rooted in classic baking traditions, but it&rsquos also easily understood by any generation.

And the cake truffles were a fortunate accident?
CT: We make these beautiful, elaborately layered cakes and had these scraps sitting around. One day, we started rolling them into things and making them into snacks for ourselves. When we were done, we realized that they were pretty good and we should try selling them. That was almost seven years ago that we started doing that.

What would you say is the most underrated item at your shop that doesn&rsquot get the attention it deserves?
CT: The corn cookie. People who love the corn cookie are usually my favorite people because the compost cookie and the cornflake chocolate marshmallow [get a lot more attention]. They&rsquore all delicious cookies but those [who] like the corn cookies are the real fans&mdashthat&rsquos how you know someone really knows about Milk Bar.

How would you describe your relationship with business partner and mentor David Chang in three words?
CT: Brother. Confidant. Pusher.

Would you ever consider bringing Milk Bar to Miami?
CT: We&rsquove considered it many, many times. I love Miami and it will always be on our radar, so hopefully one day. It would be like a dream come true: getting a little suntan and selling a few cookies.

Where do you like to eat when you're in Miami?
CT: My must every time is going to El Mago De Las Fritas. I was in town for a wedding maybe three weeks ago, and drove from Naples to Miami just to eat there. I also love going to Garcia&rsquos Seafood Grille & Fish Market.

You'll also be at Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival this weekend. What do you have planned there?
CT: I&rsquom participating in the Chillin' N' Grillin' event that is happening midday on Saturday. It&rsquos one of my favorites because you get to cook poolside, and you get to really celebrate that Florida living, which New Yorkers dream about come December&mdashand we&rsquoll be making dessert. I&rsquom also going to be a judge that Saturday night selecting the Best Bite of their [Street Food: PB vs NYC] event that&rsquos happening in the evening.


Arnold Palmer Layer Cake

I feel like even when I get into trouble with a recipe – be that forgetting an ingredient, messing up a cooking temperature or missing a step – I have enough creativity to get myself out of it. That said, last year for Fourth of July I attempted to make this Arnold Palmer cake from Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi and it was an epic fail. It reminded me of the cake the three fairies try to make without magic in Sleeping Beauty (something like this). I tried to get by without a couple of key ingredients, but I could not resuscitate this thing. The cake was dry (the first major sin), my iced tea jelly was liquid (gasp), the mascarpone filling wouldn’t firm up and my almond tea crunch tasted like clumps of dirt. I still served it, because I had to have something to show for all of my surgical efforts, and my family was nice enough to grin their way through a slice.

A bit of background on my relationship with Ms. Tosi (Well, I don’t have one, but I do have her cookbook and sometimes curse at it.). Her sweets-focused cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar, has recipes within recipes that are very much an uphill marathon. For me, they take a week of planning, reading, mentally preparing, rereading and always a couple of days to execute (please don’t close the browser now, it gets better). However, once I have finished, it’s the greatest sense of cooking satisfaction I’ve ever felt. And they are damn tasty. The kind of tasty where people ask you what you put in there. I highly recommend trying some (like her Funfetti-style birthday layer cake or blueberries and cream cookies), just go in with your game face.

It’s a year later, and I decided to face the five-page recipe of sweet tea cake, lemon mascarpone, tea jam and almond tea crunch once again. But this time I had a plan, the right ingredients and a weekend of solitude in the apartment. It took me a couple days (and a couple bottles of wine I think), but the results were fantastic. It’s one of the most unique cakes I’ve ever made and really emulates the golfer’s classic sweet tea and lemonade concoction. It definitely checks all the boxes with the sweetness of the cake, creamy mascarpone, crunchy filling and that punch of tea throughout.

If you have the second issue of Lucky Peach magazine (a literary foodie publication I highly recommend), refer to page 65, or refer to the recipe below. I’ve included my bits of editorial comments within the instructions, since I did take a few small liberties with the recipe. Heading into the Fourth this time, I can say that making the Arnold Palmer cake this year felt much more like when the three fairies played to their strengths and used magic to make Aurora’s cake. Enjoy your holiday!

Note: Plan ahead. Several ingredients used for this cake (acetate strips, feuilletine, cake ring, etc.) you will need to get from a specialty baking store or online. I’d also suggest purchasing the unsweetened iced tea powder online, since I found it difficult to find anything but sweetened version in grocery stores.

Arnold Palmer Cake
Makes a 6″ Cake, Serves 6 to 8

Lemon Tea Cake
Bitter Tea Soak
Tea Jelly
Lemon Mascarpone
Almond-Tea-Crunch

parchment paper or Silpat

6″ cake ring (I used an 8″ ring and it worked great, and served about 10-12 people)

LEMON TEA CAKE
8 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
9 bags Lipton black tea leaves
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream the butter and granulated sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. After 2 or 3 minutes on medium-high, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and egg yolks one by one until they disappear into the butter and sugar.

Scrape down the sides again and turn the mixer to low speed. Stream in the oil, buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon extract. Mix on medium until everything is homogenous and fluffy—about 5 to 6 minutes.

Combine the flour, tea leaves, baking powder, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. With the mixer running on low, incorporate the dry ingredients into your main bowl. You don’t want to overmix the cake just mix until the dry ingredients disappear (45 seconds or so).

Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Spread the cake batter on the pan and give it a little jiggle to even things out. Bake for about 30 minutes, then give it a gentle poke. You’re looking for it to bounce back and for the cake to have pulled back from the edges a bit. (You are probably not going to use the cake immediately, so make sure to wrap it in plastic so it retains moisture.)

BITTER TEA SOAK AND TEA JELLY
(makes a little more than you need)
2 1/4 cups water
8 bags Lipton black tea
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup instant Lipton unsweetened iced-tea powder
1/2 tsp. pectin NH
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice

(Because I used an 8″ cake ring, I doubled this recipe just to be safe. I ended up with the perfect amount of jelly.)

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove it from the heat and add the tea bags. Let the bags steep for 5 minutes, or until the tea is very bitter. Discard the tea bags and store the bitter tea soak in an airtight container.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, pectin, and tea powder until thoroughly combined. Over high heat, slowly whisk in 3 cups of bitter tea soak and the lemon juice, and bring to a full rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 minutes. This activates the pectin and will turn the tea and lemon into a beautiful jelly. Transfer the jelly to an appropriate container and refrigerate. Once set, the jelly will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

(I’m not a frequent jelly maker, so I became very nervous when my jelly didn’t become it’s beautiful jelly form in the pan. But once I put it in the fridge and let it cool, it came out just like she says. Be patient. Don’t freak out like I did the first time and start spreading Orange Marmalade on the cake.)

LEMON MASCARPONE INGREDIENTS
(makes a little more than you need)
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons), plus the zest
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 gelatin sheet (1/2 tsp. powdered)
8 tbsp. cold butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup cold mascarpone

(Again, for my 8″ cake ring, I used about 1 1/2 of this recipe and it was just right.)

Bloom the gelatin in cold water.

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and eggs. Cook the mixture over low heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken as it comes to a simmer. Once it does, take the pan off the heat.

Whisk in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt. Mix until everything is fully incorporated, shiny, and smooth. (You can do this in a blender if you like.) Transfer the lemon curd to a container and cool in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. (I found my lemon curd was a bit chunky with the zest, so I put it through a fine mesh strainer, and it was the perfect texture.)

In a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment (or a mixing bowl, using a spatula), fully combine the lemon curd and the mascarpone. It’s important that both the cheese and the curd are cold, or they won’t come together properly. (So true!) Lemon mascarpone will hold in the fridge for a about a week.

ALMOND-TEA-CRUNCH
1/4 cup instant Lipton lemon iced-tea powder
2 tbsp. slivered almonds
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup feuilletine
3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Note: The unique texture of feuilletine is the secret to the almond-tea-crunch layer in the middle of the cake. Feuilletine is made of little pieces of crispy broken crepe or cookie. You can mix it with any amount of fat – or anything oily – and it will never go soggy. But the second you moisten it with milk or water – anything that’s not pure fat – sogtown. Its texture is impossible to replicate at home, so it’s worth seeking out. (You can find it on Amazon or, if you are in the Los Angeles area, it’s sold at specialty food stores like Surfas.)

Lightly toast the slivered almonds in a preheated 325° F oven, just until they start to take on a little bit of color.

Combine everything in a stand mixer. Mix over low speed with the paddle attachment for about a minute, until it comes together as a nice sandy crunch.

BUILD THE CAKE
Invert the sheet pan of lemon tea cake onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake.

Use a cake ring to stamp out two circles from the rectangular cake. Reserve them for your top two cake layers. You’ll bring together the remaining cake “scraps” to form the bottom layer of the cake.

Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of the parchment-or-Silpat-lined sheet pan.

BOTTOM LAYER
Use your fingers to stamp the cake scraps together into a flat, even layer—the base layer of your cake. No one will ever know you faked it.

Dunk the pastry brush in bitter tea soak, and give the first layer of cake a good, healthy bath. Use about half the batch.

Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the lemon mascarpone in an even layer over the base of the cake. Sprinkle half of the almond-tea-crunch evenly across the top of the lemon mascarpone. Finally, use the back of a spoon to spread one-third of the tea jelly as evenly as possible over the crunch. (This step wasn’t easy, so I just did little dollops of jelly, and you could still taste it in the finished cake.)

MIDDLE LAYER
Repeat the process of building the first layer, using one of the completed cake rounds as the base. (Laying the cake rounds into the ring is a bit tricky, but don’t worry if they crack a little. No one will know once it’s layered and set.)

TOP LAYER
Nestle the remaining cake round on top of the second layer of tea jelly. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining third of tea jelly, and spread it into an even layer.

Transfer the assembled cake, sheet pan and all, to the freezer. Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours to set the cake and its filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

TO FINISH
When you’re ready to serve, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer. Using your fingers, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand and let it defrost. It usually takes about 3 hours to defrost at room temperature, or 6 hours to defrost in the fridge. If you want to jazz up the presentation, cut paper-thin slices of lemon and arrange them on the top jelly layer. Then slice wedges and serve. Wrapped well with plastic, the cake will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.


This is what nine bags of Lipton tea looks like. It gives a really distinct, powerful flavor to the layers of cake.

The Almond Tea Crunch layer is one of the features that really sets this cake apart. If you’re at all hesitant to take the extra steps to get feuilletine, I think it’s completely worth it, at least this once. It’s truly a unique texture and flavor, and stolen pinches out of the jar taste pretty great.


I love the idea of using the scraps of sheet cake to create a third layer. It’s a signature of Tosi’s style that speaks to my instinct to avoid wasting ingredients as precious as cake.

What are some of the recipes that you’d want a second chance at? Leave your comments below.


Reinvented Desserts: 13 Creative New Takes on Timeless Treats

The cronut&trade is currently the ultimate reinvented dessert. If you haven&rsquot yet heard of this luscious treat, it is exactly what it sounds like &mdash part croissant, part doughnut. Customers at Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City have gone completely crazy for cronuts, leading to a trademark of the creation&rsquos name, lines around the block at 5am, cronuts on Craigslist, and new takes on the cronut (under different names of course) that have cropped up around the globe.

Frozen yogurt shops &mdash especially those offering tart yogurt flavors, like Pinkberry &mdash won't go out of style anytime soon. Chef Jet Tila has taken a creative approach to the trend with his unique frozen dessert shop, Kuma Snow Cream in Las Vegas. Tila based the ice cream hybrid on the Taiwanese dessert called "snow ice." As he explains, "Traditional shaved ice is made by grinding ice, then flavoring it with syrups or condensed milk. Snow cream is an ice cream and shaved ice hybrid it tastes creamy but feels like fresh powdered snow." Flavors include Green Tea, Black Sesame, Taro, and Honeydew, and customers can create their own unique Snow Cream experiences at a toppings bar.

Another take on the classic, French, butter-laminated pastry is the pretzel croissant. Made in honor of Companion St. Louis&rsquos 20th anniversary, these special baked goods have all the buttery texture of your typical croissant, but with the savory, salty goodness of a street vendor pretzel.

A French macaron is typically two soft, airy, almond flour-based cookies held together with buttercream. But Francois Payard, who is known for his mastery of the little confections, came up with a new spin on the classic that is perfect for summer. He serves up Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches at his bakery locations. House-made ice creams and sorbets are layered between nostalgically-shaped rectangular macarons. Flavors include Raspberry-Pistachio, Coconut-Mango, Chocolate on Chocolate, and Strawberry Cheesecake.


How to Host the Best Dinner Party Ever: Recipes and Tips From Milk Bar's Christina Tosi

I stank at sleepovers as a kid. I didn't like scary movies, and I always woke up too early. When I admit this to Christina Tosi, the wildly imaginative founder of the Milk Bar bakeries (a spin-off of David Chang's Momofuku), inventor of the super-addictive, much-praised Crack Pie, and enthusiastic slumber-party hostess, she says, "I totally understand that. I was the hugest dork growing up." These days the 33-year-old Virginia native is one of the most in-demand food personalities in the country, with friends and fans including Karlie Kloss and Aziz Ansari.

She's also releasing her second cookbook, Milk Bar Life, a personal follow-up to the more dessert-driven Momofuku Milk Bar. Her new book is a collection of sweet and savory dishes Tosi likes to make and serve off the clock, and it's a reflection of her playful worldview. "We never want to grow up," she says, speaking for herself and her Milk Bar crew. "We're serious when it makes a difference, but we're ridiculous when it doesn't."

To celebrate, Tosi (who films MasterChef and MasterChef Junior in Los Angeles) invited over three former Milk Bar bakers—Marian Mar, Leslie Behrens, and Courtney McBroom—for a girls' night. On the menu: Party Nachos, Kimcheez-Its with Blue Cheese Dip, Blue Cheese Pretzels, a boozy Mango Drink, and Greta Sugar Cookie Squares, named for Tosi's mother. They're perfect for a slumber party—or a brunch, a casual dinner party, or a late-night supper. Read her tricks of the trade here:

Her Essential Kitchen Tools

Tosi recommends having on hand four pieces of equipment, at minimum: a toaster oven ("You can bake in it, and you can definitely make Party Nachos in it") a slow cooker or a microwave, for warming up snacks a wooden spoon, for mixing cookie batter and a sharp knife ("It makes everything coming out of your kitchen look super professional"). Anything else is icing. "Limitation breeds creativity," she says. "The giggles and bonding come when you're like, 'OK, I have this amazing recipe from this amazing chef, and it says we need X, Y, and Z. We have none of those things, so how can we make do with what we've got?'" To her point, everything she and her friends whip up could be made with those four tools.

A Menu for Any Occasion

Tosi suggests making an equal number of sweet and savory dishes for a girls' night in. "You have to be able to read the crowd," she says. For late-night munchies, she likes Party Nachos the next morning she transforms leftovers into a Tex-Mex breakfast casserole by adding eggs, sausage, cottage cheese, milk, and cheese, then baking.

A special celebration warrants rib eyes, fresh popovers, and creamed spinach, Tosi says. But cooking well doesn't mean cooking complicatedly. One of her favorite dishes to prepare is a beef roast with gravy that calls for four ingredients: condensed cream of mushroom soup, dried onion soup mix, canned tomato sauce, and beef brisket. She just stirs together the first three components in a baking dish, adds the brisket, coats it with the mixture, and covers it loosely with aluminum foil before roasting it for two and a half to three hours. (And yes, the recipe is featured in her new book.)

Her Baking Secrets

Like any good Milk Bar cookbook, this one includes plenty of cookie recipes. If you're baking with guests—a great slumber-party activity—Tosi advocates mixing the dough ahead of time and freezing it until you're ready to bake. (Add a tablespoon or two of nonfat-milk powder to any batter to enrich flavor and chewiness.) Tosi also offers a tip, from her grandma, for storage: "Stick a slice of bread in an airtight container with your cookies to keep them fresh for up to five days."

The Inevitable Cleanup

Whether it's a sleepover or a Sunday lunch, the same rule applies: "Send everyone home with leftovers," Tosi advises. As for dishes, if you don't have the energy for soaping up your good china, go with disposable. Says Tosi: "There's no shame in using compostable plates and trash-bagging it like you had a frat party. It's got to be easy."

Christina Tosi Shares Her Strategy for Success__

Kimcheez-Its With Blue Cheese Dip

Cheez-Its are a thing of beauty, especially when you're late-night snacking with gal pals. Because we challenge all great late-night snacking with a sense of "from scratch" wonder, we just had to challenge how in the world they packed all that cheddar into those little cheesy crackers. We took our results to a whole other level with the help of sweet, spicy, fermented kimchi, a required refrigerator ingredient if you're in the Momofuku family.

1 cup kimchi (store-bought or homemade)

3/4 pound cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 packet (1/4 cup) cheddar powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blue Cheese Dip (recipe follows)

You can buy cheddar powder at Amazon or kingarthurflour.com. It's the same stuff that comes in packets in boxed macaroni and cheese!

Put the kimchi in a strainer lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl and let it drain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Remove the kimchi from the strainer and discard the liquid (or use it to make kimchi Bloody Marys!). Put the drained kimchi in a food processor and puree it until it's completely smooth.

Combine the kimchi puree and shredded cheddar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula, add the flour, cheddar powder, and cayenne, and mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl down again and mix on low for an additional minute. The dough will be very stiff. If it's too much for your mixer, finish kneading it by hand.

Divide the dough into 6 portions and shape into balls. Put each ball between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and, using a rolling pin, roll it to a cracker-like thinness, about 1/8 inch.

Remove the top piece of paper from each dough round and then, using a paring knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. You should get about 40 small crackers from each round. Transfer to greased or lined baking sheets. You will need about one baking sheet per dough round bake them off in batches.

Bake the crackers for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180*F and bake for another 8 minutes, or until the crackers are completely dry and just starting to brown on the edges. Cool completely.

Serve with the blue cheese dip.

Blue Cheese Dip

2 tablespoons dried chives

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 pound good blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled

Mix the dried chives, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper, sugar, and dried dill in a small bowl.

Whisk together the sour cream, mayo, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the seasoning mix and stir until completely incorporated. Stir in the blue cheese, smashing it a little along the way to break it down.

Let the dip sit for at least 3 hours in the fridge to develop flavor. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

The Greta (Sugar Cookie Squares)

Makes about 2 dozen 2-inch squares

I was raised on these sugar cookie squares. My fondest memories of them involve receiving disposable 9 13-inch pans of them once a week (that's 3.43 cookies a day) when I was away at college (and I didn't have a kitchen of my own to bake in). What a mom!

Even after I opened Milk Bar, my mom still sent me these sugar cookie squares, direct to the bakery. They became so legendary we called them "Greta cookies" or "the Greta," because you can't call a sugar cookie a sugar cookie in a bakery it's just too confusing. Also, the difference between a sugar cookie and a Greta sugar cookie square is huge.