How This 'MasterChef' Judge and Bakery Owner Maintains All of Her Relationships
Christina Tosi has three jobs: She’s a judge on the Fox cooking show MasterChef, she’s a partner with the New York-based Momofuku restaurant group and she owns Milk Bar, a bakery chain that will soon open its ninth location in Las Vegas.
Despite her hectic schedule, Tosi makes it a priority to connect with not only her loved ones, but also herself.
“I thought, ‘Girl, you need to get a system. Like, you need find a way to organize how you’re gonna get all of this done in your head,’” Tosi said Monday at the third annual Welcome Conference in New York. “You can’t have this many relationships, this many bonds with people, you can’t really value it unless you have a system.”
To give others a snapshot of how she balances all of her relationships, both personal and professional, Tosi explained how she directs her undivided attention to them, one at a time.
During her half-hour talk, she outlined an example of a day in her life where she alternated between all of her jobs and her closest loved ones, resisting distractions. Here are some of the lessons she’s learned about keeping up with everyone.
Make everyone feel appreciated.
Tosi has formed hundreds of relationships through Milk Bar, which opened its first location in 2008. Every day requires tending to meetings and emails, but Tosi says she doesn’t let budgets and strategy get in the way of her bond with her employees.
On a typical day, Tosi might go for an early-morning run and think about big decisions or pleasing investors, then head in for some meetings. But first, she’ll stop at one Milk Bar storefront to introduce herself to a new employee on his or her first day. Across the river, she’ll compliment someone for writing a thorough log the day before. She’ll ask her younger bakers to teach her new slang terms that will keep her on her toes, or she might ask them about what they did over the weekend.
“I laugh and I smile with them, because that’s part of it,” Tosi said.
Take the time when you have it.
While Tosi said she considers herself one of the world’s top 10 multitaskers, she doesn’t try to focus on two of the important bonds in her life at once. She waits until she has even a couple of minutes of down time, and when she does, she seizes the opportunity.
After a morning of Milk Bar meetings, Tosi might find a few minutes to arrange for some gift boxes to be sent to friends: A Milk Bar onesie, cookies and a family-made quilt for a couple expecting a baby, or a “cookie bomb” for a friend’s restaurant she dined at the night before to thank them for the stellar service.
One day, when Tosi’s mom called during a meeting, she broke her own rule and left the room to answer. In that moment, she set aside Milk Bar and focused completely on her mom. As it turned out, her mom was calling to let her know she had booked a surprise trip to New York. While Tosi doesn’t always take time to schedule visits with her family, she let her colleagues finish the meeting without her while she and her mom chatted about the weekend ahead. She allowed herself to let Milk Bar slip out of her mind and delegated the business at hand to her team.
Be a role model.
Tosi didn’t simply spout platitudes such as “make time for others” without explaining how to accomplish that feat. She gave a play by play of what her days look like, including the challenges she faces as she manages her priorities.
Whenever she can, she FaceTimes her sister before it gets too late, so that she can squeeze in a quick chat with her two young nieces.
“I have these two beautiful nieces, and I’m thinking, you know, it’s important to me that I know them, it’s important to me that they know me,” Tosi said. “I’m a busy woman, but I would be no role model if I didn’t actually show them how to get it all done.”
Look outside, too.
By noon, Tosi may have kissed her fiance good morning, taken time for herself by meditating, joked around with her employees, sat in on Milk Bar and Momofuku meetings and showed friends she cares. All bases covered, right?
One afternoon, when it was time to head uptown to record a MasterChef voiceover, Tosi decided to power-walk rather than take a cab or the subway. It gave her time to not only send quick texts to her fiance and her sister, but also to take in the city around her. She explained that the downside of focusing intently on each relationship is that she rarely lets her mind wander -- or lets herself be “part of the world.”
“You never know when you’re going to be inspired,” Tosi said, “or what you’re going to be powered by.”
Forgive yourself, then keep purusing.
On the way home after a long day, Tosi often considers calling a friend on the West Coast but occasionally doubts her own energy to do so. Other times, she’s in an important meeting but decides to step out when her mom calls, or she checks her work email one last time before getting ready for bed. She loses her sense of self, she gets lazy, she occasionally devalues her relationships by putting some before others. But she doesn’t dwell on it.
“Sometimes, brown-butter Rice Krispie Treats sneak in and try to start trying to pull me out of quiet ‘me time,’” said Tosi, noting a time when she was meditating and became preoccupied with a new recipe idea. “It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it happens. I believe that there’s plenty of time for any and every relationship that I might need or want to feed in a day, as long as I set realistic expectations, communicate and forgive myself when I fall short.”