If you live in Brooklyn, we’re sure you’ve heard about and probably even tasted cupcakes from Robicelli’s… and if you haven’t, we’re sure you’ll want to purchase some after seeing pictures on their website! We caught up with Allison Robicelli, proprietor of the eponymous bakery, after her recent appearance on Chopped to learn more about her. Did you know Allison and her husband Matt opened up their home to provide relief to neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Sandy? Read on for more!
FP: How did you get your start as a pastry chef?
AR: I’ve spent my whole career bouncing between pastry and savory. Cooking had always been a hobby, but I had never considered it as a career. Then I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer shortly before my 21st birthday and had to spend a year in chemo and essentially quarantined from life. I wasn’t happy with the idea of handing over an entire year to cancer, so I pretty much made my own cooking school at home: reading books, watching TV and old VHS tapes, practicing. Once I got a clean bill of health, I decided to make it my life.
FP: We’re inspired by how you turned something so challenging into an opportunity!
Name some chefs that have inspired you.
AR: Well certainly the chefs whose books and videos taught me to cook, namely Julia Child, Jacques Torres, Jacques Pepin, Alton Brown, Shirley Corriher, and Harold McGee. I’m really fortunate to have become friends and colleagues with lots of people I admire, like Gina DePalma and Fany Gerson. And I have the biggest chef-crush in the world on Wylie Dufresne. I met him on my 32nd birthday last year after having dinner at WD-50 and made a complete ass of myself. Then I cried a lot on the way home. Happy crying.
FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the hardest ingredient to work with?
AR: The ingredients aren’t the worst part of Chopped. The clock is. When I sat down and thought about it, I was able to come up with some pretty interesting recipes off what I was given. Unfortunately, I didn’t have lots of the ingredients I needed, nor did I have enough time to execute them. In owning my own company for so long I’m mostly become an R&D chef. I develop new recipes, research them fully, spend hours or days perfecting them. You don’t get that luxury on Chopped. I spent most of my time in the Chopped kitchen looking for things like spoons and towels.
FP: We love the Robicelli’s website and all the cupcakes! Tell us how the concept of your business evolved.
AR: It was an accident, and a VERY long story….and I actually have a cookbook about that story coming out about that this fall from Penguin! Robicelli’s: A Love Story, With Cupcakes is available for preorder right now.
FP: That’s exciting! We can’t wait to get our hands on a copy.
If you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC.
AR: Oh man, there’s a LOT of places I love. I grew up in Brooklyn, and I’m a traditionalist in a lot of the places we eat: Tuscany Grill, Totonno’s, Brennan & Carr, and Nick’s Lobster. For new school places, I love the Red Hook Lobster Pound, Brucie, Cafe Zona Sur… you can really go to a different place every day out here and have a brilliant meal.
FP: We’ll have to visit Brooklyn soon. So many great places to eat, so little time!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
AR: I could be a world champion KitKat eater. I also drink over six cups of coffee almost every day, and have a problem with cheese. I have, on more that one occasion, completely decimated a cheeseboard at a party that was intended for 50 guests.
FP: KitKats, coffee and cheese… you’ve named three of Kristina’s foodie pleasures right there!
Name three individuals you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
AR: The answer to this question is Jesus. I answered this once at a party with what I thought was an impressive list of thinkers and artists, was pretty proud of myself, and then the next person said “Jesus, because I’d love to know his views on how we’ve progressed as a society based on his views, for better or worse,” and I looked like a superficial asshole. So now I just answer Jesus every single time.
FP: That’s definitely an intriguing one!
In three words, how would your friends and family describe you?
AR: Funny, creative, and extremely hardworking.
FP: If you hadn’t become a pastry chef, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking hobbies?
AR: I’ve spent the past year and a half out of the kitchen working solely as an entrepreneur and a writer, and I think that’s where my career is headed, particularly as between the filming of the Chopped bio package and the filming of the show, I sustained a very serious injury that’s sort of put an end to me cooking professionally for long hours.
Besides, when you own your own business, you spend a lot more time taking meetings or doing paperwork than getting to cook. I’ve got the one book coming out, and working on two more. I’m a regular humor columnist at Medium. I do a lot of speaking and guest lecturing, which I’m hoping to continue, as I love making an audience laugh. I teach occasionally. This business is an adventure, and I’m having a lot of fun grabbing all the opportunities it provides me.
FP: We’re really sorry to hear about the injury but your resilience is certainly shining through! We’re excited to follow your career—and we’ll be in for cupcakes soon!