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Natasha Pickowicz Wants You to Throw Yourself a Party
The pastry chef on her love affair with hair ribbons, the perfect host gift, and celebrating nontraditional milestones.
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Hi! How was your week? We’d love to warmly welcome you to Big Salad, our new weekly newsletter. This is our first issue. We’ll regularly be interviewing a fun person — think: comedians, actors, writers, chefs, maybe my twin sister, maybe Ethan Hawke, who knows where the wind will take us — about their favorite things. First up is pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz.
How cute is she?! Natasha is one of those people who just gets it. For example, last weekend, I invited a few friends over to my apartment (pictured above), and Natasha showed up with this legendary plum torte, carried like a laptop in her tote bag. She also creates her own wild, playful recipes — like tater tots cake and fruit pizza — and she writes beautifully in her cookbook, More than Cake, about how baked goods can make gatherings feel extra meaningful.
Basically, she knows how to spread delight — which is what Big Salad is all about — so we wanted to hear what she enjoys in her day-to-day life. Here, Natasha reveals 14 things she swears by…
Personal celebrations: There’s something deep about throwing yourself a party. I'm not married, I don’t have kids, but like, I wrote a book, and I really wanted to celebrate that achievement. I invited 150 people to a party in Brooklyn, and there were sheet cakes and giant cheese wheels and dancing. I gave my closest friends corsages to wear. I’m a big advocate of not feeling shy about taking a moment for yourself. [Pictured: the orange glass.]
Stamps: There’s a shop in the East Village called Caseys Rubber Stamps that will make a stamp of anything you want. My mom drew the illustrations for my book, so I had a few turned into rubber stamps to use during book signings. People went crazy for them. You can have fun with colored ink pads, and it adds a flourish to a handwritten note.
Party music: I feel very fatigued by the algorithms of music apps. So, for dinners in my backyard, I bring out my cassette player and tapes. Tapes are plentiful, and they’re dirt cheap. (I like shopping in-person at record stores and thrift stores, but you can also buy new and used tapes online.) You can listen to a whole album all the way through and enjoy the ambience (and hiss) of tape spooling. It’s a way better vibe for entertaining.
Apron: As a chef, I have so many aprons, but my go-to is the Bragard apron I wore while working in restaurants. It’s actually the apron in The Bear. It’s by a classic French workwear brand and only costs like $30. It’s the best for everyday use because it’s thin and not too starchy, and after a few washes it gets really soft.
Ingredient: The kitchen ingredient I use for absolutely everything is Tart Vinegar, small-batch raw vinegars with delicate flavors and distinct personalities. My friend Chris Crawford makes them, and she once made a batch with fig leaves from a tree in my backyard. The vinegars are effervescent, so you can add seltzer and drink it as a tonic. They're also incredible with desserts. It’s an ongoing love affair.
Podcast: My best friend Alison Leiby is a comedian, and her hilarious podcast Ruined is the only one I listen to as soon as it comes out, which is Tuesday mornings. Her co-host Halle Kiefer is a horror movie buff, but Alison is a scared-y cat (like me!) who just wants to know what the movie is about so she can understand the discourse around it.
Nail polish: I love nail polish, and not working in restaurants anymore is fun because now I can actually wear it. I have Green polishes, which are vegan, and I go back and forth between mint and poppy red.
Kitchen gadget: When I first started in restaurants, I noticed everyone was using a Gangy can opener, so I bought one for my home kitchen. At $12, it quickly became my #1 kitchen tool and a total paradigm shift. It doesn’t have a gear because a gear is what makes a traditional can opener bullshit — it rusts, it dulls. Instead, this one is always sharp and fluid and easy, and it feels great in my grip. This also makes a perfect host gift. Now I actually look forward to opening cans.
Grocery store: The Korean supermarket H Mart opened a new location in Woodside, Queens. It’s my happy place. I will literally spend two hours there, going up and down every aisle.
Workout: I used to feel like outdoor basketball courts were for guys who knew what they were doing, but this summer I bought a women’s basketball and went to free public courts in my neighborhood. There’s always a hoop available midday, and the people are really friendly. Now I enjoy shooting around or playing HORSE with a friend. I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour.
Volunteering: A great thing about volunteering is that you always leave feeling energized. It's like going to the gym — once you're done, you feel, like, radiant. I'm going to the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House tomorrow to teach a class at their older adult center. We're going to make fruit tarts, I can’t wait.
Dessert: Here’s what I adore about cake: a classic frosted layer cake can always heighten a meaningful moment. I just got back from my parents’ 40th anniversary celebration, where my boyfriend and I cooked a fancy dinner for them and all their friends. Since they didn’t have a cake back at their actual wedding, that was my surprise gift. My parents even cut the cake together and fed it to each other. My mom was embarrassed but I loved every second.
Lightning round! When you sweep your hair back, do you use a clip?
You often wear a cat-eye. Do you have a go-to eyeliner?
I’ve been wearing the same black eyeliner by L’Oreal for like 20 years. I just do a little flick in the corner. I used to line my whole upper lid, and then I saw a TikTok about lining only the outside half. Even though it’s a small difference, it feels more updated.
How about nights out?
I wear metallic peacock blue eyeshadow, which is so fun. I also recently got my first Byredo lipstick in this incredible creamy brick color, which feels very new for me. When I wear it, I feel grown up and pulled together. It’s definitely a splurge, but it makes me feel good every time I see it in my purse.
Thank you so much, Natasha! We adore you.
(Interview by Kaitlyn Teer. Opening image by Elena Mudd. Image of corsage by Meghan Marin. Beauty photo by Blythe Thomas for Toast. All other images are product photos or courtesy of Natasha Pickowicz.)
We loved chatting with Natasha, and now I’m curious: Did you read anything compelling on the Internet this week? Here’s what stuck out to me…
Oh lord, this NYTimes headline feels deeply sexist. A party-loving media strategist gets engaged to a Harvard law professor, what could they POSSIBLY have in common? (Oh, I don’t know…they both excel at their respective careers? They both seem hungry, curious and deeply engaged with the world?) Don’t miss the professor’s actual quote: “People I dated seriously, subsequently, were people of substance.” As parody account @nytvows wrote, “If you end up in The New York Times, they won't make you look bad — YOU will make you look bad.” Ed. note: He was my professor when I went to NYU Law for one year! Everyone thought he was hot. I take it back!
Wowowowow this essay, about growing up with a terror of being fat, onknocked me off my feet. (CW: eating disorders.) “‘Such a pretty face’ was code for fat. Was my face a consolation prize? I stuffed my rage down with food but refused myself the nourishment and became bulimic, throwing everything up into the toilet until I lost weight. Thinness turned me into an object of desire. Boys to whom I’d previously been invisible suddenly made extended eye contact charged with an electricity I’d rarely felt before.”
The other night, I made the chicken flautas recipe by. The boys and I devoured them while watching the first half of 13 Going on 30, and it felt like a peak parenting moment.
A Week of Outfits: Shoko Tatara. A mom of five talks about clowncore, online friendship, and Japanese styling tricks.
- and her husband just moved from the suburbs to the city, and they need our help.
Fall Pleasure: A Short, Perfect Book. I love the satisfaction of devouring a story all in one gulp. Here are seven gems.
Three Funny Films. Including Josh O'Connor as a nervous groom.
Thank you thank you thank you for being here! I wish I could serve us all a plum torte. Please let us know if there are people you’d love to see featured or burning questions you’d like us to tackle. Thanks again, and have a good weekend,