Much as we’re looking forward to David Chang’s Momofuku arriving at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan, we might be even more excited to have Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar opening on the second floor before year's end—and you don’t have to be a food nerd to appreciate Tosi’s playful approach to baked goodies. The two-time James Beard Award winner and dessert trendsetter has built a business empire of her own beyond her origins creating Momofuku’s desserts and is ready to expand the Milk Bar dynasty to its western-most location. We caught up with the dessert trendsetter as she put final touches on the new Vegas store and fulfilled TV judging duties on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior.
You got married this summer to Will Guidara, the restaurateur who’s also opening a first project in Las Vegas soon with NoMad. Is this some sort of New York-to-Vegas takeover conspiracy? This is a source of hilarity in our family. When we first started dating, we kept work separate for obvious reasons, then when we started to share a little bit more about work and I’d say I was super-close to signing this deal to go out to Vegas and it was super exciting, it became hilarious. Because we might sign a deal in Vegas! We’re still newly married so it’s a fun little roller coaster right now, seeing other and then not seeing each other because of work and travel. It will be exciting if and when we are working in the same city at the same time. That’s the life goal.
The addition of Momofuku and Milk Bar and NoMad is a big deal for Vegas. We are getting another level of cool restaurant we haven’t necessarily had yet. I think it’s a little deeper than just the celebrity chef tag. It’s also very indicative of who’s running Vegas these days, that they’re willing to dig deep and dream and build and commit to building properties that would lure people that otherwise have plenty to do on their own home front. It shows what they see the future of Vegas being, and that’s what excites us.
What’s your Vegas experience been like prior to building this Milk Bar? I really didn’t have a big relationship with Vegas until I was in my 20s, and now I probably come out four or five times a year. I love it. The thing I love about Vegas is there’s something for any type of mood you’re in and something for any kind of adventure you seek out. As much as I like to have a routine when I travel, in Vegas, every trip is different. I love that it’s always full of surprise and wonder. I’ve really fallen in love with it over the past few years.
What are your thoughts on the dessert and pastry landscape of the Strip? I think you can definitely get some amazing desserts on the Strip but there aren’t many places where it’s the central focus of the concept. There are killer desserts at so many of these incredible restaurants. But I’m the kind of person, when I’m walking around at any time of day or night, I might really need a cookie, and that’s easier said than done on the Strip. The scene in Vegas is awesome, but it continues to change and evolve and I’m excited to be part of that.
Has building Milk Bar Vegas been vastly different from your other shops? Every project is different in the obvious sense of design and layout and type of space and condition of space. Vegas, on some level, has been an incredible joy. Partnering with the Cosmopolitan means you get to leverage their team of killers—amazing, well-rounded people who know how to do this. It’s their job to make amazing things happen. So on some level it’s been easy, while on other levels it’s incredibly challenging. If you get your birthday cake at Milk Bar Las Vegas, it damn well better look and taste and feel exactly like the one from our store in Chelsea in New York, even though there are different people in different kitchens at different altitudes who may be using the same ingredients but they’re from different distributors and stored in different warehouses at different humidity points. That’s the crazy baker stuff. But in general, it’s been really exciting, because you get to take more risks and we get to think about our design in a different way. It’s also fun to consider that some people will be experiencing Milk Bar for the first time. New Yorkers know what we’re about and what to expect.
Are we going to see a different menu and maybe some exclusive-to-Vegas items? You sure are. It’s going to be dessert heavy to start. There will be four different flavors of soft-serve, which is twice what we have at other stores. There will be more options because we have more space to be creative.
We’re also launching these Blizzard-McFlurry-type concoctions called Milkquakes, blending ice cream with these fun, delicious textures and flavors. That’s exclusive to Vegas. I think we’ll have more than that once we get there and get a sense of what the Vegas food scene is like. Is it bold and gaudy and ridiculous? Is it more refined and high-end? One thing I’m definitely looking forward to is when we make the entire casino smell like baked goods. At that point, resistance is futile.