2015 Boston Rising Star Pastry Chef Rachel Sundet of Hungry Mother and State Park

2015 Boston Rising Star Pastry Chef Rachel Sundet of Hungry Mother and State Park
March 2015

Sometimes a chef knows from day one that she’s destined to cook. Sometimes, it takes a little external prodding. For Rachel Sundet, the journey to food began with a (sweet) parental shove.

A Columbia University graduate with a degree in anthropology and some professional ambivalence, the Boston native decided to decamp to the United Kingdom in 2003, living with her grandmother in London for some soul-searching. Encouraged by parents who saw her potential, Sundet found herself looking to culinary school. Eager to test the professional waters before diving in, she started as an unpaid intern at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fell in love with the kitchen.

After a year abroad at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, Sundet returned to Upstairs for two years before her career began moving her around, both geographically and in the kitchen. Seattle found her working the line at Brasa under chef Tamara Murphy, and (simultaneously) the morning pastry gig at Macrina Bakery, eventually transitioning to lead line cook at Brasa. Broadly skilled, and with then boyfriend, Tyler, Sundet spent eight months learning to make cheese on a Maine goat dairy, and followed the experience into working as cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. Sundet couldn’t manage to stay away from the kitchen, though, so When Tyler started cooking at Hungry Mother and an opening for a part time pastry position became available, she jumped at the opportunity., After almost a year, Sundet took the helm of the Southern-inflected pastry menu. In late 2013, the pair, married in 2011, helped open State Park, a stylized dive and, cocktail den with elevated Americana cuisine, and amusements game room in Cambridge.

Interview with Boston Rising Star Pastry Chef Rachel Sundet of Hungry Mother and State Park

Caroline Hatchett: How long have you been here at Hungry Mother?
Rachel Sundet:
I’ve been here as pastry chef for four and a half years. And before that I was here for a year part time. My husband [Tyler] and I met in Seattle; we were working at Brasa. I was there for two and a half years. [Tamara Murphy] was one of the first people dedicated to local and sustainable produce and livestock. She had a whole program with farms north of Seattle. She was really passionate, and set the tone for me. Here we do lots of canning in the summer, setting ourselves up for the cold months. We use all local farms, and try to preserve as much as we can, whole. Berries, rhubarb, plums, and peaches all hold up well in syrup. We stay with the seasons and what we can get locally. 

CH: What did you do when you left Seattle?
We moved back East, spent a summer on the cape, made cheese in Maine for eight months. Tyler started working at Hungry Mother on the prep team and I was working at Formaggio Kitchen. I missed making things myself, and started working there part time. I happily slid into the position.

CH: Did you go to culinary school?
 I went to Leiths School of Food and Wine [in London], slightly accidentally, and did undergrad before that at Columbia; I was an anthropology major. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. After school, I decided to spend time abroad. I have lots of family in London, so lived with my grandmother.

CH: What was your firsts professional gig?
I got a job at Upstairs on the Square with Amanda Lydon and Susan Regis. I liked creating things. I started on garde manger; I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself as girl who would bake. I wanted to be well rounded. I worked the line at Upstairs, then the line at Brasa, and had a part time job at a bakery.

CH: What’s your five year plan?
I think since having a baby, my perspective has changed. I still take my job seriously, and have high standards, but I used to get very anxious and beat myself up more. With my son around, it helps me put things in perspective. Since I’ve been back to work, I think I’m trying to enjoy myself more. Try not to worry about what I should be doing, or the kinds of things I should be making. It’s easy to question yourself. I take a different approach to enjoy what I’m doing. With the opening of State Park, we joined ownership team. I love ownership here and working at Hungry Mother. Our hope is to keep expanding, and I would be in more of an overseeing role, with whatever project we take on next.