Bondir, which Bon Appetit named one of the country’s ten best restaurants in 2011, has hired its first sous chef. I chatted with Rachel Miller about her sweet new gig, going from kosher vegetarian to expert animal slaughterer, and where to find a good local doughnut.
Congratulations on your new position as sous chef at Bondir. Do you have a hand in planning the menu?
Yes, I do, and no matter how challenging it gets, it’s what I look forward to most every day. It is probably the most important thing in my growth as a cook. Our menu changes just about every day, so it keeps me on my toes in terms of buying/selling and practicing cooking techniques.
You’ve gone from being a kosher vegetarian to slaughtering and butchering all kinds of animals. What’s been hardest for you in that transition?
The hardest was really just in the beginning five-ish years ago. It was a complete 180 flip from my lifestyle back then. I got sick often; my body was not used to eating meat at all. The importance of whole-animal butchery opened up a whole new world to me — culinary and personal — that I never even heard of, and there weren’t enough hours in the day to learn what I wanted to learn.
So there was a big physical and mental blow to my whole world. Of course I felt a little guilty handling the “unclean,” and to this day I have a little inside pride for at least not doing so on the Sabbath — especially not pork, blood, etc. I appreciate the kosher dietary laws for what they are, and I acknowledge them when I can.
Before moving here you raised chickens on a farm in Texas. What do you think about the urban farming movement here in Boston?
I think the urban farming movement is quite the blessing, honestly. The general public for a long time had no concept of where food comes from and how much appreciation it deserves. It’s teaching people how much work it actually takes to feed their families, and I think it’s necessary for urban farming to exist if we expect future generations to have any passion or understanding about local food and why it is important for our health, communities and local economy. If it someday worked out that our society could revert itself, everyone would be much happier and healthier, and our local economies would be stronger.
Growing up, you fried doughnuts in your dad’s shop. Given we’re ground zero for Dunkin’ Donuts, do you have a favorite doughnut in Boston?
There is nothing up here like my dad’s old shop in Mississippi! Dunkin’ Donuts to me is just awful fast-food and never fulfilling. I haven’t really ventured out for donuts in Boston, but in season, Nashoba Brooks Bakery in Concord makes amazing apple cider donuts.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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