Pastry Chef Miro Uskokovic of Gramercy Tavern - Biography

New York, NY

February 2015

Serbian-born, Miro Uskokovic came to the states to realize his culinary dreams. Living in what was then Yugoslavia during the tumultuous years of civil war, Uskokovic’s family turned to farming in times of scarcity, producing milk, cheese, and yogurt and trading with other local producers. “Both of my parents tried to teach us from a young age to make everything homemade. We never really ate in restaurants,” he recalls. But while those early years and his admiration for his beloved mother’s talent with breads and pastries made an impression upon young Miro, it was never considered a proper career path. “Being a chef in my country is not really a glamorous job. My parents were quite strict, they wanted me to finish high school and go to college.”

It wasn’t until his senior year of high school, which he spent as an exchange student in Indiana, that Uskokovic’s culinary predilections came to the fore. Missing his native comfort foods, Miro began preparing traditional Serbian dishes for his host family. “They noticed how much I loved to bake and were the first ones to encourage me to go to school and pursue my dreams of becoming a chef.” Returning to Serbia at the end of the school year, Uskokovic enrolled in hospitality management school, the closest thing to culinary school available back in his homeland. But when the education proved not to be what he was looking for, Uskokovic knew he had to get back to the States.

Thanks to the hospitality of his generous host family, Uskokovic was able to return to Indiana and take a job at a local pastry shop, Pastry Diva. It was there, under the tutelage of Andrea Kirpatrick, that his culinary journey truly started. Working under Kirpatrick for just under two years, Uskokovic saved money and sorted out his immigration papers to allow him to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. But when he got there he chose to pursue a culinary degree instead of a pastry degree, struggling with his family’s perception of baking as an inappropriate career for a man. It wasn’t until a formative internship at NYC’s Walse under Johnny Iuzzini that he finally shook off those arbitrary preconceptions and fully embraced his passion for pastry.

Following his mentor, Uskokovic moved from Walse to Jean-Georges in 2010, and continued to work under Iuzzini for more than two years. In 2013 he stepped into the pastry chef position at Aldea, working with a single assistant. And less than a year later, when Nancy Olson was preparing to leave Gramercy Tavern, Uskokovic was offered the position. Now with a staff of 15, Uskokovic is overseeing a pastry program that spans breads, plated desserts, confections, and chocolates, all of which benefit from his nuanced touch, striking a balance between comfort and novelty, indulgence and restraint. And yes, his parents are thrilled.