American pastry chef Cynthia Barcomi.
American pastry chef Cynthia Barcomi. Cynthia Barcomi
American food has gotten a bad rap around the world. People often associate it with fast food, cheeseburgers, and french fries- the very bottom of the cuisine totem poll.
But American pastry chef Cynthia Barcomi is hoping to change that.
In 1985, Barcomi was fresh out of Columbia University and needed a change. She wanted to pursue a career as a dancer and figured it might be easier in Europe. So she chose Berlin as her new home.
Almost a decade, and two children later, Barcomi decided she wanted to try something new and move on to another passion. That passion was baking.
"It was a new chapter in my life, " she says, "and I thought, 'well I have so many options out there. What do I want to do with myself and how bold am I going to pursue what I want to do?'"
It turns out- very bold. Barcomi decided to start her own business.
In the early 1990's, American food was hard to come by in Berlin. Barcomi wanted to do something about that.
"I thought, you know, I am going to bake a little bit because I am so tired as an American hearing from Europeans and hearing from Germans that Americans have no food culture, and I thought - I've always enjoyed baking and I thought I'm just going to do what I know," she says.
After some initial resistance getting a loan from the German banks, Barcomi opened her first shop in Kreuzberg in 1994.
New York Cheesecake: a specialty at Barcomis.
Her cafe "Barcomi's" featured all handmade American pastries: carrot cake, cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, cinnamon rolls, and the classic chocolate chip cookie.
But despite the quality of her food, selling American cuisine wasn't easy at first. Berliners simply didn't know what it was.
"You know, quite honestly, in the beginning I was literally hanging bagels by a fish line in the windows because nobody knew what they were."
Eventually word of mouth spread and Barcomi's transitioned from a neighborhood favorite to a tourist destination. She has since opened a deli in Mitte.
As for Barcomi's all time favorite pastry, she says it's the chocolate chip cookie.
"I feel like it's an aphrodisiac. It's like a band-aid. It's like a peace pipe" she says.
"What you experience when you bite into a cookie is much, much more than I could ever say in order to try and convince someone that American baking has an incredible tradition and its regional and it just like something you cannot even imagine. Much more important than me saying that is someone biting into it."