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Running in tandem with the recipes are the essays. This is really a cookbook/memoir. And what Robicelli's is, in essence, is a recession survival story. We started this business initially not to go on TV or write a book or even to make cupcakes—we started it to try and have a shot of staying in Brooklyn, of keeping our family together. When I look back at all the things we've been through and survived the past four years—even I don't believe some of it. But I get letters from all over the world not just from other bakers, but people who have lost their jobs, people who have lost businesses, people who are really fucking scared about the future. And they see us holding on and trying to make it, and they write the most heart-wrenching letters about how it's comforting to know they're not alone. So this book is going to tell the story of chasing the American dream, but it's not going to sugarcoat it. I'm embarrassed to say how many times I've been sitting at my usual table at Hom, writing on my laptop, hysterically crying. But you show yourself at your worst, your lowest, you find the humor in it, laugh at yourself, get up and keep going. That's how we've always done it.
Are there cookbooks you admire? Ones that have influenced you, or that you hope to emulate?
I have the 1974 Illustrated Good Housekeeping cookbook memorized from reading it so many times over the past 25 years. I asked for, and received, Jacques Torres' Dessert Circus for my 16th birthday, and from my birthday on August 1st til the time school started I had made every single recipe in that book. That began my love affair with French techniques and pastry as a whole. Bo Friberg's books were a huge deal for me years ago, as were Shirley Corriher, Harold McGee, Paula Figoni. It's my Stuyvesant High School nerd tendencies that got me really interested in food. I also really love books that not only give you recipes, but really tell a story and get you connected with the food. I'm Italian-Catholic, but spent a large chunk of time working in kosher kitchens because I was so inspired by Joan Nathan's work. And regardless of the fact that she's a good friend of mine, Fany Gerson's My Sweet Mexico is really as close to perfect as cookbooks come. If I write a book that's half as good as that one, I'll be happy.
Do you have any other new projects on the horizon? Any dream projects you hope to get off the ground?
About a billion of them. My ADD allows my brain to move a lot faster than Matt and I can possibly catch up, so we always have ideas in waiting. Our oldest is starting kindergarten this year, so we're seriously considering opening up a real store again. We still get a ton of requests for the scones, doughnuts, sticky buns, etc. that we used to make at the old Bay Ridge store, even though we closed it over two years ago, so it would be nice to have a space of our own where we could bring those back. Our brownies and whoopie pies are actually beginning to outsell the cupcakes, so we're working on getting them shipped around the country. We're looking for a business partner so Matt and I don't have to do everything anymore, and so we can continue growing the company without totally destroying our children's lives. We're very aware of the direct correlation between our monetary success and their eventual therapy bills, so we try to take their well being into account before we do anything. And, you know, we're actually writing the book. It's coming out in the fall of 2013, so we have a long ways to go and a lot of work to do.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart