For our first Té Collaboration, Sunday 7/25 from noon-4pm, we’re joining up with pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz. You might know her from her pop up series Never Ending Taste, which has made appearances in New York, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Get to know Natasha and come visit for the fun part–the food of course!
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Before getting to the questions, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a pastry chef born and raised in San Diego, now based in NYC. I moved here in 2013, after living in Montreal for about 4 years. I studied Scottish Literature in college and spent most of my 20s as a journalist, writing mostly about the arts, and as a curator, programming events that celebrated experimental and avant-garde ways of making music, which means that there was no time left for a formal culinary training in pastry.
Food was actually a big part of that, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was often responsible for finding food and lodging for the traveling musicians, and when they crashed with me, which was often, I tried to at least make their meals a little more special and elevated. I’d spend days cooking elaborate, nourishing meals that hopefully felt exciting to musicians used to eating fast food or gas station snacks after long days on the road.
The intersection of pastry, hospitality, and the arts is really what I want to hone in on—how they relate and enhance each other—and moving away from the more monolithic structure of restaurants, which are so vulnerable to toxic structures, from finding funding to the idolatry of chef culture to the critical review process.
When did you first start being interested in Pastry and Baking?
Montreal is where I fell in love with pastry; besides possessing an incredibly rich culinary culture, it was the city where I befriended other cooks, bakers, farmers, and makers. I was hired for my first baking job in Montreal, at a queer, punk luncheonette-meets-bodega called Depanneur Le Pick Up. I didn’t really know how to bake at all, but through my co-workers and practice I taught myself.
My more formal training began at Lawrence Restaurant, where I was first introduced to naturally leavened breads, spinning ice creams from scratch, the intensity of working service and the insane focus that goes into plating complicated fine dining desserts. I was a mess of nerves but I was also just so, so in love with pastry that I kept pushing. It was this crazy hunger to learn as much as I could. I feel like both of those places naturally inform my two sides—my desire for perfection and love of fine dining, and also my more DIY, freewheeling approach to desserts and pastry.
How was it like when you first moved to New York?
I had always swore to myself that I would never move to NYC, that it was too big and too scary and too much and that I preferred smaller cities like Portland and Montreal. But after I finished a two week stage at She Wolf Bakery and Marlow & Sons, I felt like I had found my home.
I instantly clicked in those spaces, and I had never felt that about any place I had lived before. Montreal was more of a slow burn—it took me a while to find my people and sense of purpose. But everyone I met in NYC was immediately warm and kind and fun and open—nothing at all what I thought New Yorkers would be like! I felt like my loud, extroverted American-ness just made sense here. I especially clicked with the pastry chef at Marlow & Sons and Diner, Ashley Whitmore. I just knew she was someone from whom I could learn a lot. So when she offered me a job, I said yes—and moved to NYC from Montreal just three weeks later. It was a whirlwind. I was so sad to leave my life in Montreal behind, but every instinct in my body felt like it was the right move. It honestly changed my life.
When did you first hear about Té?
I was the former pastry chef for Matter House, and that included Altro Paradiso in SoHo, which is near Té. I remember someone bringing the linzers into work one day to share. It is one of the most perfect cookies I’ve had in my life. The tart, bright pineapple jam, the crucial pinch of flaky sea salt, the delicate buttery cookie, that pop of yuzu zest—it’s just the best!
I also come from a big Chinese and Taiwanese tea drinking family, so I have a lot of appreciation for these delicate and complex teas of the region. I love the atmosphere at Té—it’s very meditative and elegant and serene. I was definitely very influenced by Té Company when I was putting my pastry menu together at Flora Coffee, at the Met Breuer. I think a beautiful cup of tea and a buttery, not-to-sweet pastry is one of the most delicious combinations ever.
How did this collaboration come about?
Last summer, I started a pastry pop-up called Never Ending Taste, which stems from my love of bake sales and connects me to local farmers and non-profits that address food insecurity.
It was also a really crucial way for me to reevaluate my relationship to pastry, which felt very fraught after being permanently terminated from a job that I had held for almost five years. I felt like I had a very specific skill set but I wasn’t sure what to do next. So I started baking every week at Archestratus Books, a food-centric bookstore down my block, which turned into a formal pop-up at Superiority Burger in the East Village.
Since then I’ve popped up as Never Ending Taste at Four Horsemen in Brooklyn, Chino Farm in San Diego, Kismet in Los Angeles, and other places run by people I love and respect and learn from. I see Té Company as fitting into this group of special spaces; it’s such an honor to be able to bring my baking to this unique oasis in the city.
Where does the inspiration for the menu come from?
Now that it is July, I’m very excited about going to the Greenmarket and shopping for local fruits, vegetables and herbs! I have a pretty good idea of the menu—my trademark layer cakes, a delicate fruit galette, ice creams, sorbets, and cookies—but I also leave plenty of room for the items to be influenced by what we will find at the market.
I’m hoping to find stone fruit like plums and cherries for the sorbet, and fresh herbs like anise hyssop and lemon verbena. I was just upstate and started experimenting with baking with fresh peach leaves—they impart a very delicate, nutty flavor, a little like marzipan. I am also hoping, of course, that any of these treats would be delicious paired with tea!
What are you working on right now, besides the pop-ups?
As surreal as it is to say, I’m currently working on the manuscript for my first cookbook, to be published by Artisan! Never in my life would I have imagined I would be a published author someday, let alone that it would be a cookbook. I am so, so excited to share my stories and recipes with the world, to show people how pastry and baking is this incredibly special, one-of-a-kind tool for bringing people together and creating unforgettable moments.
It is a lot of solitary work typing in front of a computer, so I am really grateful to have Never Ending Taste as a physical, immediate outlet to bake and connect with people. I also run a pastry chat (although sometimes it truly feels like a support group, haha) with the culinary platform DEMI Community. It’s the most incredible mix of professional cooks and chefs and amateur bakers, and the way that these people swirl and connect and vibe off of each other is the most special thing.