Food and Wine Best New Chefs 2022: Caroline Schiff
PHOTO: ALEX LAU
It’s unclear which is more epic: the sweeping blow of Chef Caroline Schiff’s signature coif or the dramatic arc of the shiny, searing meringue swirling around her baked Alaska. The dessert, a must on the menu of the Gauge and toll, the opulent historic Brooklyn steakhouse where Schiff runs the baking and bread programs, takes three full days to build. To make it, Schiff and his team of four whip up three ice creams from scratch – dark chocolate, surprisingly light fresh mint and fresh vanilla, which is swirled with a heap of lightly boozy amarena cherries. The ice cream stack is topped with a generous layer of chocolate cookie crumble, then frozen overnight. The next day during service, each baked Alaska is crowned with an airy French meringue that is whipped and set on fire to order.
Schiff has an unparalleled talent for bringing classic desserts and flavors to life. A charming slice of tangy goat cheesecake is her nod to the classic New York dessert, as well as her time spent working as a cheesemaker. “Cheese is a wonderful way to end a meal, and it pairs so well with fruit. It’s a great seasonal canvas,” she says. Coconut Cake is upgraded, transformed into an ethereal slice topped with a nest of candied kumquats and pink peppercorn cashew slivers and packed with coconut custard between layers of Chiffon cakes so thin they cook in just eight minutes.
Meet all the top new food and wine chefs of 2022
Originally from New York, Schiff can’t remember a time when she wasn’t obsessed with cooking. “I came home from school and wanted to bake,” she says. She spent her university years traveling around Europe to study French and returned home with the hope of cooking professionally. Schiff had heard of The Good Fork, a small family business in Brooklyn that made everything from scratch, and sent a cold email to co-owner and chef Sohui Kim, pleading for a chance to work there. “She taught me how to make pasta from scratch, how to fold dumplings and brunoise a shallot,” Schiff says. Kim quickly became her mentor and encouraged Schiff to leave to learn the baking skills she was looking forward to learning.
Schiff landed at Le Mas (La Grillade), now closed, where she learned to make everything from mousse to cheesecake, ice cream to canelés, and created “these mixed plates that had seven, eight or nine elements” , explains Schiff. . “It all really blew my mind.” It’s also where she learned to incorporate a salty note (“Is there something really sour, or something salty?”) in each of her desserts, which still remains in her style. nowadays.
Seeking a change, Schiff spent time working in New Orleans before returning to New York and working at Greene Grape Provisions, where she learned two important lessons: First, she’s not from morning (“If there was a question, now I know. I’m definitely not”), and second, how to prepare very large bread orders – something that came in handy at Gage & Tollner, where his team makes up to 400 of the restaurant’s beloved Parker House rolls a day.
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In 2018, Kim approached Schiff to ask if she’d like to join her team in reopening Gage & Tollner, a legendary restaurant that first opened in 1879 and was once run by legendary chef Edna Lewis. The pandemic delayed the project, and Schiff found herself freelancing and knocking out a cookbook while waiting for the restaurant to open.
Since reopening in 2021, Gage & Tollner has quickly become one of Brooklyn’s go-to spots for special occasions, and thanks to Schiff’s menu, every diner is sure to save room for desserts. While she’d love to write another cookbook down the line, Schiff says, serving dinner and watching customers’ faces light up is her favorite part of her job. “I feel so much joy and energy from physically being at the restaurant,” she says. “I think I’m sentenced to life.”
Gage and Tollner, 372 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY, gageandtollner.com
Meet all the best new chefs in Food & Wine 2022: Warda Bouguettaya | Damarr Brown | Ana Castro | Calvin Eng | Tim Flores and Genie Kwon | Melissa Miranda | Justin Pichetrungsi | Emily Riddell | Rob Rubba | Caroline Schiff