BED-STUY — When Eric See, the chef and conceptualist of The Awkward Scone cafe that opened last August on the Bushwick and Bed-Stuy border, makes a dish – whether it be a turmeric lemon poppy seed bread, or a hash brown burrito, it is infused with growing up in New Mexico, and his coming of age in New York, finding pastry and healing.
“I think food is the OG form of storytelling,” he said in between sips of grapefruit seltzer water. “I’m giving you glimpses into my childhood.”
See has been hard at work since the tender age of 11, with his first gig at an airport cafe in his home state of New Mexico.
“I would help the chef crack eggs before service, then wait tables for the rest of my shift,” See recalled, setting a tone early in life of his firey entrepreneurial spirit. Those days, See envisioned himself becoming a travel agent –– thankfully for hungry Brooklynites, that path didn’t pan out.
See was studying foreign languages at the University of New Mexico when he found out about a beverage program at Vermont’s New England Culinary Institute and packed his bags. His interest then was to become a sommelier. Once there, however, something clicked for him and See made a last-minute switch to pastry.
A year into the two-year program, See landed an internship in New York with Karen Demasco, dubbed “one of the greats of the New York food world” by GrubStreet in 2019, and he hasn’t looked back since. See stayed in New York to pursue a career as a pastry chef, working his way to the top –– his Awkward Scones bio boasting he’s even made breadsticks for Oprah.
In recent years, pastry has become for See a channel for community and creative expression. Take his layered rainbow cakes, a subtle yet important cornerstone of his mission to empower and create a community within The Awkward Scone. See has been making them for five to six years now, and in 2016 hosted a big fundraiser at Hester Street Fair, where he raised two thousand dollars for victims of the Orlando massacre.
“People see this flamboyant rainbow cake, but that’s me maintaining a connection to one of my communities,” See says. To this day proceeds from the sales of his rainbow cakes go towards LGBTQ+ non-profits like Immigration Equality, Queer Soup Night, Queer Anga, Trans Justice Fund and SAGE. The brick and mortar is also for queer folks to take up space: See adorns the cafe’s walls with queer artwork and holds meetings for LGBTQ+ organizations, like those previously mentioned.
Nestled on the shelves in the cafe among a macabre cookie and voodoo doll, are See’s tea blends. He likes working with the baristas on the teas, and is inspired by New Mexico desert herbs, like sage. Tea became a prevalent interest in his life after being forced to stop drinking alcohol in order to heal his damaged liver.
“I was one of those people that needed a vice at the end of the night to have something to sit down at home with and relax,” See shares. He began blending teas and grew to appreciate the holistic and homeopathic nature of teas.
“[It’s] healing from the inside, but [I was making] it taste good.”
Something else that tastes damn good, are See’s breakfast burritos: a full-circle element to his story, one that his business partner and pastry chef, Erin Emmett encouraged –– and the local community of New Mexicans demanded.
There’s a surprisingly large community of New Mexico-ans in Bushwick, See says, and when they discovered he used green chile in some of his scones, begged for a taste of home.
See delivered, and debuted the burritos in late October of last year. He’s even gone a step further to embrace his home state’s culture by decking out the bathroom in Mexican tile and markers of Mexican-American culture, like an art-piece of Texan music legend, Selena.
New Mexico breakfast burritos are special and require three important state-specific elements that are hard to find in New York: Chile Verde, hashbrowns, and good tortillas. This past Christmas See brought back with him about 70 pounds of green chiles on his flight back to the East coast and asks his mom to ship over boxes of flour tortillas that he picks up from the airport.
In the 10 years he’s lived in New York he’s only eaten two burritos, namely because they just don’t taste as good. He’s been eating breakfast burritos his whole life, they’re a reflection of his upbringing, “Almost every year of my life has moments that are centered around breakfast burritos.”
See’s mom and aunt used to wake up at four in the morning to roll burritos for things like school fundraisers. And no road trip or flight was ever complete without a ziplock pack of his mom’s burritos that he’d eat throughout the day, and notes: “The longer that they’re sitting together the more the flavors develop.” Which is exactly why See rolls his burritos first thing in the morning, then toasts them to-order.
The neighborhood should rejoice: the breakfast burritos, like the vegan option, are filled with refried pinto beans (which he also imports from New Mexico), Chile Verde, and hashbrowns (a staple in NM breakfast burritos), are delicious –– and taste like the real thing. Other choices include the vegetarian burrito with cheddar and scrambled egg, the red chile burrito with chorizo and bacon and lastly, their bacon and green chile burrito, they all come with egg, cheddar, and hashbrowns and will set you back $8. See’s attention to ingredient sourcing, like having tortillas shipped from NM, has made the burritos a true taste of home.
“Surprisingly those have been a runaway hit,” he says of his burritos. Now people come for the burritos and stay for the scones, See says, representing a harmonious balance of his continuously unfolding story, alive and well in Bushwick, where he first lived all those years ago at the start of his baking career.
Catch See at the register every Thursday afternoon, stop in for burritos available ‘til they sell out, and follow them for updates at @theawkwardscone on Instagram.