24 hours With Milk Bar’s Director of Culinary Operations
Staff one-to-ones, spice, and everything nice.
In 2018, after working as a pastry chef at top New York restaurants like Bar Boulud, Daniel and Dominique Ansel Bakery (where she was instrumental in the development of the now-renowned Cronut), Anna McGorman became the director of culinary operations for uber Instagrammable pastry emporium Milk Bar. There, she gets to spend her days developing and refining innovative sugary creations like Milk Bar’s famous birthday cake and cereal milk soft-serve, while jetting back and forth between test kitchens in New York and LA. Originally from Philly, she has been in New York for the past 12 years. Here’s what a day in her life looks like.
The morning starts off at our Brooklyn commissary kitchen. Milk Bar has been growing and changing since its start in 2008 and has been cranking out treats from our large Williamsburg facility since 2010. As the Director of Culinary Operations, I am responsible for all of our production, distribution and R&D at each of our kitchens (which basically means I get to play with cookies, cakes, pie, and soft serve all day!).
This week we are gearing up for Valentine’s Day and everyone is in full swing for a product launch at the end of this week. We are making a few specialty items for the holiday: a mini (and adorable) version of our Birthday Cake, meant to share with a loved one (or enjoy solo!), and a decadent, online-only chocolate raspberry jam layer cake. I check in with our commissary managers, Ali and Gonxhe, to see how everything’s going. The raspberry jam for the cake is a new recipe so making sure it’s super tangy and the right consistency is key for this baby to succeed.
Via Anna's Instagram.
A commissary visit is never complete without stopping by to taste prospective future treats and chat with Tyler, our R&D Manager. Tyler and team are always a few months ahead of everyone in planning so he is currently playing around with Easter and spring-time vibes. He’s got cereal divided by color on his station and I’ve never seen a more distilled physical representation of why he works here (and is great at his job): it's the exact have-I-gone-too-far energy we need in our R&D department.
Next it's off to the MB HQ in Manhattan for meetings on meetings. I generally have 10-12 meetings on Tuesdays ranging from 1:1 touch bases to big-picture conference calls with our nation-spanning team. Today is no exception, so I am running between calls and meetings from 10am to 3pm. Office life is vastly different from kitchen life, but luckily our corporate office is hardly “corporate” – with Milk Bar neon signs and huge wall decals of cookies, cake, and truffles in every conference room. My favorite chat of the day happens with our Director of Food Safety, Tia, and Director of Supply Chain, Dan, while we talk more Valentine’s Day logistics. The three of us work very closely together, both literally (our desks are right next to each other) and figuratively, so tackling these big holiday events require a lot of coordination.
3:15pm hits and I’m off to our NYC flagship store, right around the corner from our office in NoMad. We just opened in November, so everything is still being tinkered with and open for adjustment. Today I’m presenting at an all hands Front of House offsite where every storefront manager from our team has flown into NYC to talk overall 2020 goals and vision. I get to present the high-level menu to the team, hear feedback and talk challenges from last year. It’s great to see everyone face to face in one room – it’s like the family getting together for the holidays!
Before heading back to HQ, I do a quick touch base with our NoMad LAB Supervisor, Rikki. LAB is our culinary wonderland where we make unique off-menu items each week at our flagship locations. Between Logan Circle in Washington DC, Melrose in LA and NoMad in NYC, there are so many seasonal and exciting things to play with, so we chat about the upcoming schedule and some recipe specifics.
"You want options? We got options."
Stopped back at the office for a few more end-of-day calls and then home to Brooklyn to get ready for an early start tomorrow: the alarm is set for 5:30am so I can make a flight to Los Angeles. In the morning, my alarm goes off and I’m off to the airport. JFK was an absolute madhouse today but made it through security and still had time to get a coffee before jumping on the plane. Managed to bang out some emails and planning while also watching Ad Astra.
By 1pm I’m at our LA flagship store in West Hollywood. I get right into the kitchen to see how the production of the same chocolate raspberry cakes that we were also making in Brooklyn is going on the West Coast. Our LA Commissary Manager, Karla, has decorated the entire kitchen with photos of one of her Corgis, Roux (she has two now!), so I get both work-related and dog-related updates, which feel equally valuable.
There’s always lots to do but at the end of the day, it’s wonderful to do something I love and *hopefully* make other people happy.
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