How Momofuku Wants To Redefine 'The American Pantry'

For years, Momofuku has been a fixture in the food realm, opening numerous restaurants and fast-casual establishments, influencing the baking and ice cream worlds in conjunction with Christina Tosi's Milk Bar and staking its claim as a culinary cultural institution. In response to the pandemic, the company pivoted into supermarket goods and it's paid off tenfold, both for the brand and for the palates and pantries of the general American public at large.

Food & Wine spoke with Marguerite Mariscal, the CEO of Momofuku, and delved into what led to the prioritization of supermarket goods and its success ever since. She noted that the restaurant group was struck by the realization that the majority of their social media following lives in states or cities that are without a brick-and-mortar Momofuku location. While the company has opened 20 restaurants since its inception in 2004, many are based in New York or California. Food & Wine points out that "consumer goods .... elevate the idea of what basic pantry items can be," as well as getting the Momofuku name and flavor profiles out to consumers who wouldn't be able to visit restaurants in person, either because of COVID or due to their living in an area that is devoid of Momofuku establishments. 

How Momofuku aims to diversify the American pantry

Momofuku's supermarket goods involve "seasoned salts, soy sauce, tamari, and chili crunch," as noted by Food & Wine, as well as a line of Milk Bar cookies, truffles, and ice creams — products that "bridge the gap between home cooking and restaurant cooking, offering home cooks pantry items that are designed to make cooking easier and more exiting." Or, as Marguerite Mariscal puts it, "we wanted to leverage the 17 years of restaurant experience and give it to home cooks." 

In addition, this also helps diversify and expand what is noted as "the American pantry," including items that may not be ubiquitous for most households. "It's beyond time to start thinking of [these items] — and ingredients from other cultures — as part of American food." The items are incredibly versatile: Food & Wine claims that they can be used in everything from pasta sauces and fried chicken to pizzas, curries, and much, much more.

A well-stocked pantry is important, as Star Tribune notes. Momofuku is looking to expand its lineup of pantry goods, with new items planned to be released in the near future. It remains to be seen whether any of them will become part of the basic ingredients you should always have on hand.