Rahanna Bisseret Martinez wearing a chef's coat, on a background with icons of cooking gear

Meet the Sophomore Who’s a Culinary Phenom

Stories You May Like

Influencer Justine Doiron ’16 Cooks Up Healthy Comfort Food

From Food Network to TikTok, Hotelie Is a Gen-Z Culinary Star

Following His Foodie Dreams, Engineering Alum Sells Asian-Inspired Snacks

Rahanna Bisseret Martinez ’26 is gaining fame for her multicultural cuisine—and she has already published a cookbook

By Beth Saulnier

It’s hardly unusual for a student with a passionate interest in cooking to follow top-flight foodies on Instagram—what’s remarkable, though, is when it goes in the opposite direction. One of those rare cases: Rahanna Bisseret Martinez ’26.

The Hotelie has a relatively modest following on her Insta, but those 9,800 or so accounts include such industry heavyweights as America’s Test Kitchen, Food 52, and Smitten Kitchen.

It’s just one of numerous lines on the California native’s résumé that would be eye-popping for any young adult—much less one still in the first half of her undergrad years.

Not yet old enough to order a legal beverage at a restaurant bar, Bisseret Martinez has published a cookbook with an imprint of Penguin Random House, been profiled in the New York Times and Food & Wine, and appeared on major cooking competition TV shows.

Rahanna Bisseret Martinez rolling out pie crust on "Top Chef Junior"
Rolling out pie crust on "Top Chef Junior." (NBC / Universal Kids)

She has cooked at the James Beard House—that vaunted foodie temple in NYC—and contributed recipes to the San Francisco Chronicle and the “Today” show, among others.

Currently contemplating a career in restaurant consulting, Bisseret Martinez has interned (or, in the French of chef’s parlance, staged) with such establishments as Wolfgang Puck, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Emeril’s, and Chez Panisse.

And speaking of the latter: when she casually mentions “Alice,” she means Alice Waters—the legendary matriarch of California cuisine, at whose famed farm-to-table restaurant she worked while in high school.

“I definitely take each kitchen as a new experience, and I go in with the mindset to learn everything I can; even if I’ve already broken down a lobster a million times, I want to know how they do it,” says Bisseret Martinez.

“It has been such a gift, because I love to cook—and seeing how so many different people have their own ways of doing things is really inspiring.”

I definitely take each kitchen as a new experience, and I go in with the mindset to learn everything I can.

Bisseret Martinez grew up in an ethnically diverse city—Oakland, in the San Francisco Bay Area—in a family of Black, Mexican, and Haitian heritage.

That multicultural background is woven throughout her cooking—like the pecan sweet potato pie with cajeta (goat milk caramel), a black pepper crust, and thyme ice cream that helped her land second place on “Top Chef Junior” at age 14.

“I feel like that really summed up my Californian, Mexican, and Black foodways,” she says, “all coming into one recipe.”

The cover of Flavor+Us

In spring 2023, Bisseret Martinez published the hardcover volume Flavor+Us: Cooking for Everyone.

It boasts a blurb from Waters, who calls it “a joyful and delicious celebration of Rahanna’s multicultural upbringing and her Oakland roots. Her loving curiosity about cooking and her thoughtful reverence for quality, seasonal ingredients shines through on every page.”

Waters’s Chez Panisse even hosted a dinner to celebrate the book’s launch—with a mouth-watering menu including a Creole mushroom galette, lemon-pepper duck, and tea-infused flan.

Laden with photos of succulent dishes and of Bisseret Martinez shopping and cooking, Flavor+Us boasts some 70 recipes with influences from around the globe.

They include garlic-fried plantains; charbroiled oysters; a snack of popcorn topped with sugar and dried seaweed; mashed potatoes with jerk gravy; creole mushroom hand pies; an Ethiopian red lentil stew; a vegetarian twist on pasta carbonara; and berry-flavored paletas, Mexican frozen treats akin to popsicles.

(Scroll down for one of the book's recipes: a mash-up of scones and conchas, a type of Mexican sweet bread.)

Also featured is a dish that helped Bisseret Martinez win an episode of “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and which she considers one of her go-to meals: tostadas topped with ribeye steak, squash medallions, and creamy refried beans.

“Be curious,” she writes in the book’s intro, describing her approach to food and cooking, “and always keep your eyes and heart open to new flavors, ingredients, and experiences.”

On the Hill, Bisseret Martinez's packed schedule includes serving on the dean’s Student Advisory Board; as community director of Thread Magazine; and as director of marketing for the Cornell chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality.

Among her most treasured culinary experiences thus far: cooking at the James Beard House for an event, in fall 2019, honoring Southern Black food traditions.

Stories You May Like

Influencer Justine Doiron ’16 Cooks Up Healthy Comfort Food

From Food Network to TikTok, Hotelie Is a Gen-Z Culinary Star

Be curious, and always keep your eyes and heart open to new flavors, ingredients, and experiences.

While the hospitality industry has diversified in recent decades, the rarified world of fine-dining chefs remains heavily white and male—and for Bisseret Martinez, helping to produce a gala dinner at the iconic venue was an invaluable moment of connection.

“It was the first time I’d ever been in a kitchen with that many Black women,” she recalls.

“It truly was an experience I’ll never forget. There’s a saying that you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it—and I had never worked in an atmosphere that looked so much like me.”

Concha Scones

By Rahanna Bisseret Martinez ’26

I love the brilliance of Mexican desserts. In many ways, Mexican desserts are actually not super sweet. Historically, the sugar used is not a white granulated sugar but a sugar called piloncillo, which has brown-sugar-molasses richness. I have so many memories of my abuelita and us drinking cinnamon tea and eating pan dulce.

The cream-filled horn (curerno) or the molasses-rich pig-shaped cookie (marranito) are iconic favorites, but for me, the concha is pure perfection. It is hardy enough to withstand a dunk into coffee con leche, Mexican cinnamon tea, or Mexican hot chocolate without crumbling or adding too much sweetness.

A scone is similar to me in that it doesn’t need to be too sweet (or even sweet at all). Here, the topping, which goes over the scone almost like a sprinkle of sugar, adds just enough sugar without overpowering the base. While typically scones are eaten with clotted cream or jelly, these scones are completely self-sufficient; they don’t need anything but themselves to be delicious and satisfying.


(Makes eight scones)


½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

⅓ cup natural cane sugar

5 drops red food coloring


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup natural cane sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Concha Scones

1 egg lightly beaten

½ cup whole milk


To make the topping: In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the flour, butter, sugar, and red food coloring. Once the butter has been incorporated, use your hands to knead the topping dough into a smooth texture. You may want to wear gloves to prevent the food coloring from tinting your hands pink. The mixture should resemble a light pink sugar cookie dough. Set the mixture aside.

To make the scones: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Once everything is combined, add in the butter. Using a fork, press and stir the butter until the dough forms little pea-sized balls. Add the egg and milk. With the fork or a rubber spatula, slightly stir together the ingredients just until the flour is almost incorporated. It should look sandy and dry on the outside. Empty the dough onto a cutting board. Fold the dough over onto itself until it looks evenly moist with small dots of butter. Gently press the dough into its original bowl, almost as if it’s a mold. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set it aside. Roll the topping into a ball and place onto a piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Roll or press the topping out into a 5- to 6-inch circle.

Flip the bowl with your dough over onto a cutting board, and flatten into a 5- to 6-inch disc. Place the topping on top of the scone dough with the parchment paper facing up. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the topping and gently press the topping to seal it to the scone dough. This should look kind of like a frosted sugar cookie.

With a large chef’s knife, cut the dough into eight triangular pieces. To decorate the scones, you can get creative or stick to more traditional designs. I like to cross-hatch the topping of the scones with a paring knife, or make the more traditional cut of five curved lines along the top meant to resemble a concha (or shell). The knife should score right before it reaches the actual scone dough.

If you don’t want to use a knife, you can make the curved lines with a metal measuring cup. Hold the cup facing downward and press one edge of the cup down into the topping to make five evenly spaced curved lines.

Once all the scones have a design, arrange them at least 1½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Chill in the fridge 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottom edges start to look golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve immediately or store in a sealed bag or container for up to one week.

Reprinted with permission from Flavor+Us: Cooking for Everyone by Rahanna Bisseret Martinez © 2023. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

(Top: Illustration by Seung Yeon Kim / Cornell University, from a photo by Nico Ovid. All food photography by Ed Anderson.)

Published April 24, 2024


  1. Kelly K.M. Carson, Class of 1973

    I wish Julia Child, the French Chef, could have met this young chef. I think she would have had her on her well loved TV cooking show as a guest. I imagine they both would have loved sharing their joy of creating delicious meals.
    My favorite listed idea that I will try is cinnamon tea, such a marvelous use of that flavor.

  2. Arlene Rosenfeld Schenket, Class of 1971

    I can’t wait to make these scones, Rihanna, and also to follow what an amazing career you’ll have !

Leave a Comment

Once your comment is approved, your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other stories You may like