Laura Raposa wakes up at three a.m. with food on her mind.
As the owner of the Foodsmith, a bakery and lunch spot in Duxbury, Mass., that kind of thinking comes with the territory. “I usually decide what I’m going to bake for the day in the car on the way in,” says Raposa (CGS’81, COM’83). By four a.m., she’s at the bakery, whipping up batter for scones, muffins, cookies, buns, and more, the radio humming in the background. “I know it sounds horrible, getting up that early, but I like that time,” she says. “For a few hours, it’s just me and Bob Oakes on NPR.”
If Raposa’s name rings a bell, that’s because she worked for the Boston Herald for 30 years, most of the time as a reporter—along with recently retired Gayle Fee (COM’75)—for the paper’s “Inside Track” gossip column. Raposa started as an editorial assistant at the Herald in her senior year at BU. “I would work at the Herald from six o’clock in the morning until about one. And then I would take the T back to BU, and go to classes from 1:30 until 9,” she recalls. “It was awesome, because when I graduated I had a job. And it was a job in journalism, and not many people in my class could say that.”
Raposa says she loved writing the “Inside Track,” and she particularly loved the perks that came with it—being wined and dined at the Four Seasons, going to the Red Sox World Series games and every Super Bowl the Patriots played in during her tenure. But “it was also a very intense job,”she says, “and it sucked up a lot of my life. I just didn’t want to be that woman on the rope line anymore, asking Tom Brady about his hair.”
She left the paper in 2013, when she decided to go for her dream of opening up a bakery.
Raposa’s zeal for cooking and baking is deep-rooted. Her grandparents and great-grandparents owned bakeries, and her family has owned and operated the Lincoln, R.I.–based bakery supply business JAR Baker’s Supplies for most of the last century. As a BU student, she would spend Saturday nights cooking with her roommate, Judy Pachter Schulder (CGS’81, COM’83). “We’d go earlier in the day to Haymarket and pick through the rotten produce, flies all around us. And we would spend the night cooking and baking.” She still uses Schulder’s zucchini bread recipe. “I sell it,” she says. “Judy’s recipe—it’s written on this card that’s all yellowed now.” While at the Herald, she ran a small catering business on the side.
Before opening the Foodsmith, she took classes at King Arthur Flour and attended gastronomic boot camps—intense two- to five-day sessions intended to hone cooking techniques—at the Culinary Institute of America. “I wanted to know not just how to cook, but how to cook things the right way,” she says. She also took on an unpaid summer internship at Boston’s popular Flour Bakery + Café, doing “the most menial things. I’d get a box of lemons and have to zest the whole box, juice all of them, strain the juice. But while you’re doing that, you’re talking to people, you’re watching—I’m a trained observer—and I learned a lot.”
In August 2015, the Foodsmith opened in Halls Corner, a small Duxbury shopping district where five streets converge at a rotary. Raposa and her husband, former Boston Globe business columnist Steven Syre, who handles the restaurant’s finances, live in Scituate, where they had originally hoped to open shop. “There wasn’t any affordable real estate available at the time,” she says, “and there seemed to be a lot of places to get breakfast and lunch in Scituate already.” She and Syre did due diligence before settling on the location, with Raposa putting her observation skills to work yet again. “We counted cars that went around the rotary, counted how many people went to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. We just sat in our car, and we watched.”
From the moment Raposa puts up the day’s menu online, usually around eight a.m., she begins taking phone orders. The eatery officially opens at seven, and often, she says, “it’s just nonstop,” with customers calling and coming in until she closes again at two p.m.
One item that always sells out at a lightning pace? Cinnamon buns. “I can’t make enough,” she says. “They go out at seven in the morning. By eight o’clock, they’re gone. You have to be on your toes if you want them.”
The lunch menu features staples, like a classic BLT, but often Raposa will serve them with a twist, adding house-roasted wild sockeye salmon and dill-infused mayo to the applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, and tomato. And the lobster BLT, a summer special made with North Atlantic lobster meat and served on buttery bread, draws patrons from across the state. Other recent menu items: farro, chickpea, and spinach bowls made with Persian cucumber, kalamata olives, rosemary, balsamic vinaigrette, spinach, and greens, and a sriracha tuna salad, made with albacore, sriracha mayo, corn, scallions, celery, and lettuce and tomato.
On Mondays, the one day the Foodsmith is closed, Raposa makes the rounds of produce stands and farms—among them R&C in Scituate, Mass., Young Family Farm in Little Compton, R.I., and Copicut Farms in Dartmouth, Mass.—to stock up. Often, she’ll take to social media to share her bounty with customers and tease about what tasty treats might come out of a purchase, like the Young Family Farm peaches that made it into scones the next day.
On a recent Thursday, customers bustle in and out—the hairdresser next door, a former employee home on college break, a woman in search of a mid-bike snack. Everybody who walks through the door seems to know one another, and Raposa knows most by name.
She and Syre are pleased to find that they have become part of a close-knit community. She says she owes much of her success to her time at the Herald. “If I didn’t have that experience schmoozing people, I couldn’t have done all this, really. It prepared me in terms of customer service.”
At almost three o’clock, well after closing time, the door squeaks open again, and a woman walks in, eyes darting from the bakery case to an employee tidying up in the back. “Are you closed? It looks like you’re closed,” she says, crestfallen.
“For you, we’ll be open,” Raposa tells her.
“Oh, thank goodness,” the woman says with a smile. “I need a scone.”
Download Judy Pachter Schulder’s zucchini bread recipe here.
Mara Sassoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.