One of our favorite NYC secrets is Burrow, a tiny, charming patisserie tucked away in a nondescript building off the cobblestone streets of Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. And one of our favorite NYC ladies is Ayako Kurokawa, the pastry chef (or pastry artist really, but she prefers a more modest title) behind every mouth-watering, eye-catching treat made there. We visited her on a weekday afternoon just after closing up shop to talk about, among other things, David Bowie, favorite desserts and a very special grandmother.
Hello, we love you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a pastry chef and live just about five minutes from here, my bakery, in Dumbo.
Let’s talk go-tos…
Coffee order: Recently I haven’t been a big fan of coffee drinks—even though we do serve it here [laughs]—but maybe a cold brew? And without milk.
Work outfit: My apron was designed by my friends at Black Crane. It’s very easy to put on, so I don’t need to worry much about what I wear.
Everyday outfit: Outside of work, my outfits are actually pretty similar to my work uniform. Clean lines, simple shapes—I like easy pieces.
Neighborhood spot(s): I love to walk down by the river here, or I’ll go to Empire Stores, a new creative and retail space built inside an old warehouse.
Album/playlist: I’ve been listening to Seu Jorge—you know, the Brazilian actor from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou—specifically his album of David Bowie songs in Portuguese. I listen to the original David Bowie songs a lot too.
Weekend plan: Because I’m so busy working during the week, honestly, I usually nap all weekend. I know, I sound so boring, but I love staying home and watching old movies. A little Netflix, some beer…that’s my typical weekend.
How long have you been in the pastry-making business?
I’ve had Burrow for four years but have been making pastries for about 10. Before that, I worked at The Modern at MoMA, a few other restaurants in the city, hotels, all over.
What’s the best part about having your own shop?
I’m not the kind of person who can work with a lot of people, so this is like my castle. I love that I can control what I want to do—whether it’s the display or the pastries themselves. It’s a good setup for me.
Speaking of pastries, do you have a favorite treat to make?
Hmm…I’d say Gâteau Basque, a tart typical of the Basque region in France, right next to Spain. It’s almost like a cookie on the outside, but with a cherry jam filling inside.
Your work is so detailed and artful. Do you have any other outlets for your creativity—drawing, painting, anything like that?
Most of my creativity goes into my work here, but I’ve tried taking a few sculpture classes and liked that a lot.
So where do you turn when you need some inspiration?
I can find inspiration just walking down the street. But I also love to travel. I’ll go nearby upstate or head out to Long Island.
And in keeping with our series—who’s a lady you love in your life?
My grandmother. She’s a really traditional lady who’s always been very disciplined. It wasn’t easy for me to talk to her when I was a kid, but she knows so much about culture—things like calligraphy and flowers. Now that I’m older I realize that her strict character was for a reason. I can see what a genuine lady she is, so I understand her better and respect her for it.
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