Pastry Chef Rachel Cemprola
“I believe food has the power to make people feel things, and that pastry in particular, helps to nourish the soul.” - Rachel Cemprola
Rachel began her culinary education at her mother’s side in her family kitchen. There was lots of cooking to be done in a family with four growing children, and Rachel was more than happy to be her mom’s assistant. Together they crafted the yearly Thanksgiving apple pie and dressed the turkey. They made cinnamon buns, and decorated cookies at Christmas. On rainy days, they would bake a loaf of bread or two, and on family camping trips her mom taught her the art of the perfect campfire chili. So much of Rachel’s inspiration and love of being in the kitchen comes from these memories and all the things she learned through watching, tasting, testing, and trying these well-loved recipes.
Her formal career began at Klinger’s Bread Company in Burlington, Vermont. This is where she really discovered the foundational essential skills of pastry making. She recalls that her mentors were so patient in showing her the subtleties of the art. She learned how to properly cream the butter just enough for the perfect cookie texture, how to make the pastry cream just right, how to scrape the vanilla out of the pod, and how to gently fold in whipped cream to make a mousse. The skills she learned in this work have supported her career ever since.
Rachel’s next stop was Crested Butte, Colorado where she discovered the challenges of baking at 10,000 feet elevation through lots of trial and error. The proprietor of the restaurant where she worked was a wine expert and enthusiast. He was always encouraging his team to taste and learn about new wines, and through this Rachel discovered a new appreciation for this aspect of the industry. She was able to hone her tastebuds to recognize the nuances in wine, and to apply those same skills in the creation of her own recipes. ”Good food, like good wine, has its balance and complexity. It should make you want to close your eye and savor it.” she says.
Next, she tried her hand at savory cooking and expanded her skill set, but her love of baking brought her back to pastry at Prosecco Café in Palm Beach, Florida. She was held to very high standards of quality and presentation, but was given the freedom to find her own style. “I really discovered what kind of baking I liked, and realized my preference to avoid food dyes and artificial extracts.” Rachel says of this time in her career. “It needs to taste as amazing as it looks, so if I can use raspberry puree for example over red dye, that is what I would choose.” she says. Her mentor here was Israeli, and shared with Rachel the secrets of his personal family recipes for rugelach and babka. He also guided her to refine her skills and become more precise.
In her next position at Mirasol Country Club, also in Palm Beach, Florida, Rachel was able to explore more collaboration between herself and the rest of the culinary team. “There was so much freedom to try new things because there were so many different types of events happening.” Rachel says of that time working at the country club. Her creativity flourished here with the opportunity to create dishes for plated dinners, buffets, and parties of all kinds, each with a different theme and feel.
When her husband took a new job, Rachel and her family decided to relocate to Waco, Texas. She began working at Milo All Day and there she learned how to make “the best biscuits in Texas”. This is where she feels she was able to really develop her own management style as she lead her team. “I take a lot of pride in making sure my staff is happy, and passionate about what they do.” she says. Rachels own creativity flourished here as well. She created one of her favorite dishes during this time (a lavender panna cotta with honey caviar, lemon curd, and vanilla almond granola) which she named ‘The Land of Milk & Honey’.
Rachel and her family relocated again to Saratoga, New York and she began working at Leah’s Cakery. She learned from the bakery’s namesake owner, Leah, the benefits of using as many local purveyors as possible and the positive effect it had on the finished products and the community at large. “People here in Vermont, similarly to Saratoga, seem more connected to the land and respect the ingredients and local farmers so much.” Rachel says. She has really adopted those values into her cooking style, and hopes to continue highlighting the bounty of our local producers in her creations at Le Marché.