Most people do not see a cucumber and turn it into a cream puff, top that with a dill pickle meringue, or pair it with melon sorbet. Then again, most people — or pastry chefs — don’t think like Rachel Bossett. They don’t fill their molded chocolate bonbons with cheddar-caramel popcorn crunch or mayonnaise caramel.
Diners at Dirt Candy on Allen Street might be familiar with her vegetable desserts, if not her name. Fewer still are likely to have tried her chocolates, but she’s steadily developing a following for her side business she pursues from her employer’s kitchen.
Bossett makes them quietly, in the smallest of batches under the trademarked name of Misfit Confections. Her most recent launch was a Halloween collection with a Candyman theme. Those who have seen the 1992 gothic fright flick would get the scene Bossett referenced when she called one of her five bonbons “Mirrors,” but probably couldn’t begin to imagine its contents. It featured mayonnaise caramel, along with nougat and toasted walnuts for a Snickers-adjacent effect.
How did she get here? Bossett’s starting place was Seattle 1977 in a redlined neighborhood where her paternal grandfather had purchased a house in the ’50s and her father had grown up among other Black families. He married a white woman, Bossett’s mom, and they raised their daughter there at a time when the neighborhood was changing. As hippies started moving in, those who stayed rallied together, forming a “diverse village of a family with all the aunties and all the kids,” she says. Most of those kids were boys, and Bossett considers herself “boyish” because of it.
Fast forward to college: Uninspired and unmotivated as an undergrad at the University of Washington, she dropped out and found work. She was known to show up places with a batch of cupcakes. “You should be a pastry chef,” was the common feedback. Lacking another purpose, she listened, found work in some bakeries, and, in 2010, enrolled at what had been the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
She was surprised by how much she enjoyed learning about chocolate but didn’t focus on it. Instead, she zig-zagged her way through the gamut of pastry positions across the city. As she notes, “I wasn’t always able to choose what are ‘the best restaurants,’ because they never pay very well.”
The pressure to make money was compounded by being in an abusive relationship for the first six years of her time in New York City, where “there was no physical abuse at all. It was all psychological, and some financial too,” she says.
When she finally left, she recalls her “brain was scrambled.” But she couldn’t take time off. So, she continued to work and built a diverse CV, eventually landing gigs in fine dining.
In 2019, she reached vegetable-centered Dirt Candy, where she remains a full-time pastry chef.
From the start, Bossett challenged herself to build desserts around, say, bell pepper, which ended up a sachertorte, its chocolate cake layers sandwiched with jam, not of the classic apricot variety, but made from the vegetable.
She picked up chocolate again once she’d settled into her new job and soon, via Instagram, started selling her inventions. Her boss, Amanda Cohen, the chef and owner of Dirt Candy, allowed her to use the restaurant kitchen in her off-time, which is where she continues to invent and produce her new if sporadic collections.
Misfit Confections’s first release was a Christmas set of six bonbons inspired by Die Hard at the end of 2020. It was an extremely limited run (12 only, ordered via DM) that Bossett did mostly for her own enjoyment.
“We know it’s technically not really a Christmas movie, but it’s totally a Christmas movie, right?” she says of her theme. Of course, everyone who’s seen the film would know that the chocolate reminiscent of Twinkies was created as a nod to Sergeant Al Powell’s pregnant wife having cravings for that snack and repeatedly sending her cop husband out to buy them. And isn’t it plain as day that she called one “Nakatomi Plaza,” because that’s where all the action took place? That would be with your run-of-the-mill bonito caramel and a rice-and-seaweed crunch — obviously. Obvious to no one but Bossett, that is.
The truth is, it’s doubtful anyone else would conceptualize things this way, let alone pull them off in edible form. So why can she? “Some people think outside the box, or as Ghaya Oliveira at Daniel liked to say, ‘Turn the box upside down.’ I like to make a tiny box,” she says, referencing her chocolates. “The smaller you make the box, the more creative you have to be.”
Misfit Confections has introduced three other tiny boxes since Die Hard (Thriller for Halloween 2021 and Coming to America for Valentine’s Day last February.) She settled on the company’s name after reading British screenwriter Michaela Coel’s memoir, Misfits. Bossett connected with the author’s story. “It’s about her upbringing in London where she never really quite fit in,” she says. “They asked her to give this speech one time at this very fancy rich people thing, which is completely not where she’s from … And I was like, ‘You know what? I like this.’”
With each new launch, she can increase production, though there’s a limit on how much she’s willing to increase her numbers. “If I tried to scale up currently, I would probably hate life, and that wouldn’t work out so well for anyone,” she says.
She doesn’t want to go down the traditional — read: French — road. “I just want to keep being super creative,” she continues. “When I see other chocolatiers, even in America, talking about what’s palatable to your audience, they are clearly, 100 percent, thinking about an upper-middle class, wealthy, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, White audience. And I don’t think about that audience when I’m creating, because I come from a totally different place than that. And I would rather make things more interesting to where I come from.”
She envisions her future self as a contentedly reclusive chocolate guru in the spirit of legend Jacques Genin in Paris, “hiding away in his little shop in that alley,” she says. “I’ve kinda wanted that for myself. Just hangin’ out in a lab of sorts, making the really good stuff for the best places and people.”
Her holiday treats are on sale now until supplies last and include a Buddy the Elf snack bar ($6), the Festivus Collection ($22) of bonbons featuring meatloaf caramel and coffee coconut; Holiday Love hearts with peanut butter and banana pudding ($8), and Jamaican-style sorrel truffles ($5).