Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2022: Caroline Schiff

This pastry whiz is updating classic desserts at Gage & Tollner in Brooklyn.


It's unclear which is more epic: the considerable swoop of chef Caroline Schiff's signature coif or the dramatic arc of torched, glossy meringue that's swirled around her showstopping baked Alaska. The dessert, a beloved staple on the menu at Gage & Tollner, the opulent historical steakhouse in Brooklyn where Schiff runs the pastry and bread programs, takes a full three days to construct. To make it, Schiff and her team of four spin up three ice creams from scratch — dark chocolate, an unexpectedly light fresh mint, and fresh vanilla, which gets swirled with a heap of gently boozy amarena cherries. The ice cream stack gets topped with a generous coating of chocolate cookie crumble and then frozen overnight. The next day during service, each baked Alaska is crowned with an airy French meringue that's whipped up and torched to order.

Schiff has an unrivaled knack for making classic desserts and flavors feel new again. A charming slice of tangy chèvre cheesecake is her nod to the classic New York dessert, as well as her time spent working as a cheesemonger. "Cheese is a wonderful way to end a meal, and it matches so well with fruit. It's a beautiful seasonal canvas," she says. Coconut cake gets an upgrade, transformed into an ethereal slice that's topped with a nest of candied kumquats and shards of pink peppercorn cashew brittle and packed with coconut pastry cream in between layers of chiffon cake so thin that they bake in just eight minutes.

Meet all of Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2022

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A New York City native, Schiff can't remember a time when she wasn't obsessed with cooking. "I would get home from school and want to bake," she says. She spent her college years skipping around Europe studying French and returned home with the hopes of cooking professionally. Schiff had read about The Good Fork, a tiny mom-and-pop operation in Brooklyn that made everything from scratch, and cold-emailed co-owner and chef Sohui Kim, pleading for a chance to work there. "She taught me how to make pasta from scratch, fold dumplings, and brunoise a shallot," says Schiff. Kim quickly became her mentor and encouraged Schiff to leave to learn the pastry skills she was eager to acquire.

Schiff landed at Mas (La Grillade), now closed, where she learned how to make everything from mousse to cheesecake, ice cream to canelés, and created "these composed plates that had seven, eight, or nine elements on them," says Schiff. "It all really blew my mind." It's also where she learned to incorporate a savory note ("Is there something really tart, or something salty?") in each of her desserts, something that remains part of her style to this day.

Best New Chefs
Alex Lau

Looking for a change, Schiff spent time working in New Orleans before returning to New York and working at Greene Grape Provisions, where she learned two important lessons: First, she is not a morning person ("If there was any question, now I know. I'm definitely not,"), and second, how to bake off extremely large orders of bread — something that has come in handy at Gage & Tollner, where her team makes up to 400 of the restaurant's beloved Parker House rolls a day.

Read Caroline Schiff's New York City Guide

In 2018, Kim approached Schiff asking if she'd like to join her team in reopening Gage & Tollner, a fabled restaurant that first threw its doors open in 1879 and was once helmed by legendary chef Edna Lewis. The pandemic delayed the project, and Schiff found herself freelancing and knocking out a cookbook while she waited for the restaurant to open.

Since reopening at last in 2021, Gage & Tollner has quickly become one of Brooklyn's go-to special-occasion spots, and thanks to Schiff's menu, every diner makes sure to save room for the desserts. Although she'd love to do another cookbook down the line, Schiff says, working dinner service and watching customers' faces light up is her favorite part about the job. "I get so much joy and energy from being in the restaurant physically," she says. "I think I'm a lifer."

Gage and Tollner, 372 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY,

Meet all of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs 2022: Warda Bouguettaya | Damarr Brown | Ana Castro | Calvin Eng | Tim Flores and Genie Kwon | Melissa Miranda | Justin Pichetrungsi | Emily Riddell | Rob Rubba | Caroline Schiff

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