Walking into local coffee shop Rough Draft, it’s easy to absorb the industrial yet cozy ambience, the aroma of artisanal teas and coffees, and plates spread with scones, pasties, pastries, and cakes. The artist behind the masterfully baked sweets and savories: Hillsdale graduate Lara Ryd.
Ryd, ’18, lost no time in jumping into life after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English in May. One week after graduation, she married fellow English major Chandler, and a few weeks later, began baking at Rough Draft — a position she had been eyeing since the coffee shop opened.
Ryd said she knew from a young age that she wanted to spend her life baking.
“I grew up baking,” she said. “All my sisters love to bake, and I was kind of immersed in it. In high school, I even considered going to pastry school. Part of it was that my aunt is a pastry chef, and I took a trip to France with her and my uncle. That was a formative thing because I was introduced to French pastry by my pastry chef aunt, and it was just a beautiful thing.”
The summer after her sophomore year of high school, Ryd challenged her commitment to the culinary world by working the graveyard shift at a local bakery from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. The experience showed the level of commitment it took to be a full-time baker, and Ryd said she considered it an important step in discerning what was really important to her in life.
“That was when I realized bakers do really live at opposite hours of the day to other people,” she said. “It was very sobering. I didn’t know if I could actually work in a bakery full-time because it would mean sacrificing other things. I hoped to find a job less crazy than full-on bakery baking, and Rough Draft works perfectly. It’s normal hours of the day, and a small selection. I don’t have to get up super early to prep anything.”
Entrepreneur and owner of Rough Draft, Carlyn Hubbard, ’16, said she was thrilled to hire Ryd. Hubbard said she has always dreamed of making everything in house, and that Ryd has finally made that dream a possibility.
“She is so great,” Hubbard said. “I just told someone looking at the baked goods, ‘How is it that we can have all these beautiful things in Hillsdale, Michigan, which is not a robust community of artisans?’ I just feel so lucky and really happy that we could provide a space for her level of talent and creativity. I think I am our No. 1 customer so far.”
A lover of literature, Ryd said that she finds some similarities between the beauty and creativity of baking and that of language.
“Baking is a lot more fleeting. If I bake a cake today, it will be gone tomorrow, which makes it cool because it is momentary,” Ryd said. “But it’s still beautiful, and I do really like making it look elegant. I like treating the top of a cake like a canvas.”
Before beginning a cake or pastry, Ryd said she tends to seek out inspiration from Pinterest and food bloggers, saying she considers what is in season, tries to vary her work, and sometimes just bakes whatever she is in the mood for.
During this process, Ryd said she keeps in mind Rough Draft’s traditional Michigan theme. Hubbard said her favorite of Ryd’s traditional creations are her pasties, a flaky crust filled with potatoes, rutabagas, onions, garlic, and coriander, among other things. Coal miners in the Upper Peninsula carried these traditional pastries to work with them inside their pockets, to warm their hands in the morning, and fill their bellies at lunch.
“I could just eat those all day,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard is not the sole devotee to Ryd’s baked goods. Visiting Lecturer of Biology Angela Pytel said she and her husband are both devoted to trying all of Ryd’s creations. Lara even asks the Pytels to test out new recipes.
“I’ll never forget the first time my husband bit into one of her scones and he said, ‘This is exactly what a scone should taste and feel like,’” Pytel said.
Hubbard said that Ryd has brought her business to the next level both in terms of her baking ability and her presence.
“Lara is so cool,” Hubbard said. “She is interesting because she is so matter of fact, and then she makes this masterpiece, and you are just in awe. I would never in my whole life be able to do what she does in a morning.”