Rachel Miller and Jason Bond are standing side by side — as they do for roughly 13 hours a day, every day but Tuesday — in Bondir's subterranean prep space. Their heads are just shy of grazing the low ceilings, and both have to duck to squeeze into the tiny walk-in. She's systematically vacuum-packing vegetables and breaking down blue Hubbard squash for a dish on the night's menu; he's rolling long, floury ribbons of pasta dough, folding it over and over in his hands. The dough, one batch egg-yolk yellow and the other chartreuse green, will be transformed, piece by piece, with a quick flick of Bond's thumb, into hand-rolled cavatelli for the same dish as the squash. One blazingly orange dried chili hangs from a rack between them.
When Jason Bond first opened Bondir's heavy barn doors in November of 2010, his contemplative, cozy, daily-changing dishes made him an instant rock star with the food community. The 28-seat Cambridge dining room is perfectly intimate (so intimate that I always feel like I should help with the dishes after our meals there, and then share cinnamon-spiked port by the fire with the staff into the night), but in many ways, that first year was defined by solitude behind the scenes. Bond was the Lone Ranger of the kitchen range, and he came to realize he needed someone to share his vision for the little farmhouse-style spot on Broadway, across from the bodega and the body shops.
So now Miller, at 24 years old, finds herself sharing the helm of one of the Boston area's most in-demand restaurants, in a position that many young chefs would kill for.
"Culinary schools are bullshit to me," she says. "I worked so hard to get to this point, and when I see someone walk out of school with a piece of paper that says they passed some textbook class, it drives me nuts. Plus, they always have a tattoo of a fucking radish." At 14, Miller earned the right to wear a foot-tall Mohawk by getting straight A's; at "15 or 16," she says, she dropped out of high school to work the line full-time. She has steadily pulled her way up the ranks, manning the fryer in her father's donut shop, sweating it out as a line cook for a handful of restaurants along the Bible Belt, training in butchery at the South End's bygone Lionette's, and winding up at Beacon Hill Bistro.
That's where she met Bond in 2009 — and where the electric current between mentor and mentee sparked to life. Then, after a year and a half working beside Bond at the bistro, Miller decided to learn about sustainable farming firsthand; she and her girlfriend moved to Smithfield, Texas, where they bought a plot of land, growing their own food and raising chickens. Meanwhile, Bond broke out on his own with Bondir. When he eventually admitted his need for a sous-chef, they teamed up again. Miller officially assumed the role this fall, after just under a year at Bondir.