Maury Rubin on City Bakery and the best desserts in NYC
One of the busiest – and happiest – hubs of activity in Manhattan, City Bakery has a flavour all of its own. Drawing discriminating locals and clued-up visitors with its baked goods, healthy lunch fare, spot-on coffee, and special events like the “Hot Chocolate Festival” (that’s February, with a new specialty flavour every day), there’s never a dull moment at this New York bakery. Presiding over all is owner Maury Rubin, who worked as a TV producer and director of ABC Sports before yielding to his pastry obsession and opening City Bakery in 1990.
‘I wanted to bake, and I wanted to have a bakery that was unique to the city,’ says Rubin, whose admiration for chefs like Alice Waters of California’s Chez Panisse instilled in him a devotion to local, seasonal, organic ingredients – long before it was the trend. ‘At that time, all of the multigenerational New York family bakeries of last century were fading away. Those places became my guide, but I didn’t want a museum piece. I wanted a thoroughly updated, modern, and forward-looking bakery.’
Ask any of City Bakery’s thousands of weekly visitors – the tech guys taking pitch meetings upstairs; the fashion execs noshing on kale salad and ginger rice; the travellers chomping on their legendary chocolate chip cookies, pretzel croissants, baker’s muffins, and fruit tarts” – Rubin’s brainchild is not your Grandma’s establishment. ‘It’s real and it’s New York,’ Rubin says. ‘As time goes by and daily life becomes more technologically driven, City Bakery is a manifestation of community that’s harder and harder to come by in physical form.’
In addition to City Bakery – Rubin’s centre of operations – he has a series of “green bakeries” called Birdbath throughout the city. Rubin considers Birdbath a feminine counterpart to the more masculine sentry that is City Bakery, and a clear expression of his views on climate change. ‘In the first decade of City Bakery, I never believed it was my proper place to speak out on what seemed like a political issue – such as the environment,’ he says. ‘Then, climate change entered in, and I saw my visibility in the community as a responsibility not to be ignored. Birdbath became the expression, then, of a bakery business that was thinking about its impact on the environment.’
Truly happy meals with a heart, be it at a Birdbath counter or in a banquette upstairs at City Bakery, Maury Rubin’s tasteful influence can be felt throughout the city.
Written by Andrew Stone