More than two years and four magazine issues after leaving the kitchen at Coi and founding his food-focused publication, Toothache, pastry chef Nick Muncy is back in kitchen, leading the pastry program at Michael Mina. Toothache magazine continues: Muncy is at work on issue five, and it’s “doing as well as an independent magazine can do,” he says.
But now that he’s got a handle on producing Toothache, Muncy can admit how much he missed the camaraderie of the kitchen. And the one at Michael Mina is both comfortable and hallowed thanks to predecessors who built it out (literally and figuratively): Chefs like Lincoln Carson, Matthew Siciliano, and Bill Corbett.
“The long line of bad ass pastry chefs that have been in there, they’ve all put their stamp on it,” says Muncy. “I go through all the toys that they left behind.”
Chef/restaurateur Michael Mina revamped the menu at his namesake restaurant last fall, with executive chef Raj Dixit channeling recipes from Mina’s Egyptian heritage, fueled by spice blends from Lior Lev Sercarz of New York’s La Boîte. The new effort earned the restaurant four stars in Michael Bauer’s final, walk-off review for the Chronicle.
With his desserts — four options, plus a pre-dessert and a selection of mignardises — Muncy is matching Dixit’s savory menu. “That’s the big role that a pastry chef has: To make the menu seamless, and [make] it not seem like another person is making the food,” says Muncy. “It should all be one idea.”
Rather than precisely recreating traditional Middle Eastern pastries — doing baklava would be “on the nose” — Muncy is borrowing flavors and textures from them. A baba cake, for example, uses orange blossom, and kataifi, the shredded phyllo dough in baklava. Instead of traditional French mignardises to conclude the meal, Muncy is subbing in bites like Turkish delight with orange and walnut. The whole menu is below, and will change seasonally.
Muncy sounds more than happy interviewing chefs for articles about their food in Toothache, but it could also get “really frustrating,” he says. “You get inspired, and then you go back to a home kitchen,” where there’s only so much you can do. Now, with his own publication and the keys to the pastry kitchen at Michael Mina, Muncy can have his cake and eat it, too.