Behind the Scenes

Toast and Talk:
Caroline Schiff

Welcome to Toast and Talk! Each month, we’ll sit down for a conversation with chefs, restaurateurs, business owners, and fellow foodies who inspire us and love food just as much as we do.

One of the most inspiring things about the food industry is seeing passionate chefs forge their own unique paths. Brooklyn-based pastry chef and consultant, Caroline Schiff is doing just that. She has over a decade of experience in restaurants and bakeries, having worked at The Good Fork, Mas (la Grillade), Maysville NYC, Kenton’s NOLA, and Greene Grape Provisions. Today, Caroline runs a consulting company focused on menu and recipe development, pop-ups, and more. You can also find her co-starring in the upcoming TV documentary series Her Name is Chef.

What is your favorite toast?
I love cheesy mushroom toast! It reminds me of this tartine I used to get when I was living in France. Sauté some mixed mushrooms in a little olive oil. Season and set aside. Aggressively toast some crusty bread, then rub with a clove of garlic. Top with the mushrooms and some grated gruyere cheese; then melt under the broiler until bubbly. I like to finish it off with some chopped parsley and serve with grainy mustard. It’s so hearty and comforting.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?
So many. Edna Lewis is beyond inspiring. She was cooking and writing about farm to table cuisine before anyone and never gets the deserved credit. Sara Moulton has always been such a force in the food world. She’s so sharp. Dominique Crenn is an artist. Her brioche actually left me speechless. The “what” that inspires me is the ingredient. If I get something really good—a perfect berry, delicious piece of cheese, incredible vegetable—I want to showcase it. Something really amazing like that just gets my brain going in terms of a flavor story. Then I start thinking about textures, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, but good ingredients really push me somewhere.

What’s your go-to weeknight meal to cook at home?
Honestly, I just like a big salad. Like Elaine from Seinfeld style. I put anything and everything in it. Greens, various chopped or roasted veggies, nuts, legumes, cheese, seeds, some kind of grain, good olive oil and lemon juice or sherry vinegar. It feels healthyish and uses up so many little odds and ends from the fridge.

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be?
Honestly, my mom. She’s my favorite, and I’m lucky—we get to have dinner together often.

What’s the best cooking advice you ever got?
Just relax and don’t overthink it.

What’s your favorite food destination and why?
France. They make all of my favorite things and they make them so well. Bread, cheese, wine, viennoiseries, and most most incredible fruits and veggies. It’s the stuff of dreams. Go have a French plum, grown from French soil. I’ll wait.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food, what would it be?
Perfect croissants. Gotta be really flakey.

How do you get kids involved in the kitchen?
I love cooking with my niece and showing her new foods. She’s at a very curious age, asks a ton of questions about food and always wants to see what I’m doing in the kitchen. The best way to get her involved is with a simple job like peeling garlic cloves. She loves it and is always proud of herself! And of course I encourage lots of tasting as we go.

Who is your dream guest to cook for?
The Obamas. I know that’s two people, but they gotta come together. Just indulge me.

Sweet or salty? Both, duh!
Burger or hot dog? Neither
New York or Chicago style pizza? NYC— is that even a question?!
Soup or salad? Salad
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Pie photo by Jon Meter
Headshot photo by Alan Cresto

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