Take Five with Harry Flager ’13

Flager pic


Harry Flager ’13 is a pastry chef at the critically acclaimed Blackbird restaurant in Chicago; he has also made pastries in South Africa, Australia and Thailand.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

Gracious and humble. I came to Columbia as a sophomore from Cornell. The culinary opportunities in Manhattan — primarily stages, which are unpaid internships in restaurants — were much greater than in Ithaca. I was grateful every day for the chance to simultaneously study at Columbia and learn from some of the best chefs in the world.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I was paired with another transfer — a quirky kid — and assigned a double in Wallach. He had trouble falling asleep, and I’ll never forget his nightly routine: once under the covers, he’d grab one of several oranges taken from the dining hall and stashed in his sock drawer and place it on his pillow directly below the tip of his nose. Apparently the scent of fresh citrus helped him nod off.

What class do you most remember and why?

The intensive French classes I took during my first two semesters at Columbia. Great professors, great classmates; I got lucky with a class that met for two hours, four days a week. I distinctly remember proficiently chatting up a cute French girl in my Music Hum class by November, which I thought was pretty cool.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I was on the opening staff for Joe Coffee in the Northwest Corner Building, and I loved it. There was something about the natural light, the clean lines, and the use of glass and steel that was so much more aesthetically pleasing than Lerner. I was also the most productive in the science library in NWC and wrote almost every paper at a table on the second floor.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I burnt myself out at Cornell, taking 24 credits both semesters of intense science courses. I got to Columbia wanting a break and dove hard into the humanities, switching my major from food science to anthropology. If I could do it again, I’d keep the science major — probably chemistry — and balance the two disciplines.