2015 New York Rising Star Pastry Chef Tracy Obolsky of North End Grill

2015 New York Rising Star Pastry Chef Tracy Obolsky of North End Grill
February 2015

Tracy Obolsky never intended to work in a kitchen, or in pastry, for that matter. In 2004, as a new alumna of Pratt Institute with a bachelor of fine arts in illustration, she could have stayed out of the kitchen—if it wasn’t for her grandmother’s dessert recipes. In the midst of casually experimenting with them, Obolsky was surprised to discover a zeal for pastry.

She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), filling out an already ingrained sense of style and composition with the foundations of classical pastry. The combination worked. After graduating, Obolsky was hired and quickly promoted to pastry chef at Borough Food and Drink. Next came Madison and Vine, where she oversaw all pastry production, and then the first Five Napkin Burger locations, where she helped develop the pastry program.

A stint at Cookshop in 2008 was followed by General Green in Brooklyn, where Obolsky developed the recipes for Greene Ice Cream (which The New York Times dubbed “the holy grail of all ice creams in New York City”). In 2010, Obolsky took the lead pastry role at Esca, where she worked for four years. In 2013, she joined the team of North End Grill—all by the time she was 30, and less than 10 years into an unexpected, artful career.

Interview with New York Rising Star Pastry Chef Tracy Obolsky of North End Grill

Mary Choi: How did you get your start?
Tracy Obolsky:
 I went to art school—I was at Pratt, and wanted to be a children’s book illustrator or a snowboarder! But then I went to work for Dave Pasternack at Esca when I was 26. I worked my way up and became the executive pastry chef. I’ve been at North End Grill for a little over a year now. 

MC: Who's your mentor?
I’ve learned something from someone in every kitchen job I’ve had. But Nick Morgenstern [when he was at General Greene] was a huge mentor. Also Dave Pasternack for introducing me to new items I’d never seen before. They all helped develop what I want to cook and how I want to cook.

MC: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
 I try to do as many events as I can. I’ve been asked to do many things working with No Kid Hungry. I always say yes to Serious Eats projects and I give kitchen tours to children.

MC: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
I think one of the hardest things is to go through a shift change at this restaurant. I was hired by Floyd Cardoz, and was trying to match his food, and then when Eric came in, I had to change everything while we were still open. Taking over a pastry department in any restaurant is difficult. But it was also very rewarding to see the results of the food.

MC: What's your five year plan?
I would like to own my own place and do my own thing myself. I have an ice cream soda shop in mind—something fun and nostalgic. Or an ice cream bakery.