An Interview with Maury Rubin
Maury Rubin, the chef/owner of Manhattan’s The City Bakery and author of Book of Tarts, first put hot chocolate on his menu in the winter of 1992. At the time, the only other upscale venue that offered the beverage served it frozen (this was pre-Starbuck’s).
Now, City Bakery, with its annual Hot Chocolate Festival which started on February 1, 1997, has become a rallying point for true hot chocolate aficionados everywhere.
As I was interviewing Rubin in City Bakery on a terrible rainy morning, a trio of well dressed patrons sat down. “You must get the hot chocolate,” the man in the group insisted to his companions, “it tastes like what I had in Paris twenty years ago.”
As Rubin overheard, he leaned over to greet the man, apparently a regular, and thanked him for his well-timed comment. “Can I put it in my article?” I asked. “Absolutely,” the man replied, “you can tell everyone that the President of the New York Public Library (Paul LeClerc) loves this hot chocolate.” There you have it, folks.
The City Bakery 6th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival Menu
- Ceylon Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
- Bourbon Hot Chocolate
- Pistachio Hot Chocolate
- Banana Peel Hot Chocolate
- Chestnut Hot Chocolate
- $100 Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate
- Chile Pepper Hot Chocolate
- Monogrammed (while you wait) Hot Chocolate
- Ginger Hot Chocolate
- Very Dark Hot Chocolate
- In the manner of Angelina’s Hot Chocolate
What made you develop a hot chocolate recipe for City Bakery’s menu?
It fits with what City Bakery is all about. In putting the bakery together, we wanted to incorporate products that have been lost over time, and hot chocolate is one of these.
Has it been popular?
It’s popularity surprised me. It sort of took on its own life. It became popular in two ways, in one way commercially, and in another, well, spiritually. There’s a lift, a way that it registers with customers that is different than say, a chocolate tart. Sure, people love chocolate, but hot chocolate seems to touch them on a deep, nostalgic level.
Would you say you were at the beginning of a hot chocolate trend?
Yeah, we take claim to a trend. In New York City, there is no doubt that our hot chocolate got hot chocolate put on menus all over town. It was unintentional; I wasn’t looking to start a trend, I was looking to serve hot chocolate.
I saw on your list of hot chocolate flavors for your upcoming hot chocolate festival here at City Bakery that you are serving something called “Angelina’s hot chocolate.” What’s that all about?
Whenever I hear people talk about our hot chocolate, there are invariably comments about Angelina’s. Whether people say our hot chocolate is as good or not as good as Angelina’s, they still put it in that context. I appreciate being compared to Angelina’s [hot chocolate], which is really a paragon. So I came up with it for those people.
Why won’t you give out the recipe for your hot chocolate? Are you doing something wildly different?
Yes, we’re making really good hot chocolate!
Check out Maury Rubin’s Book of Tarts. Connecting the dots won’t ever be the same.