Food and service have been part of Renae Connolly’s life for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Fresno, California, her love of food started at a young age. By the age of five, she was selling food from her family’s food truck at local fairs and learning her grandmother’s secrets for Armenian cooking.
In high school, Renae took on a dishwashing job at a local bakery and quickly moved up the ranks to become an assistant baker. Quickly realizing her love for pastry, she enrolled in the California Culinary Academy and graduated by the time she was 19. In Fresno, Renae worked as the pastry chef at The Chef’s Table for two years before moving across the country to Boston. She spent the next year as the assistant to pastry chef Rick Billings at Clio. When Billings left in 2008, she was promoted to pastry chef, a position she held until 2011. While at Clio, Renae was invited to attend a workshop at the Valrhona chocolate company in France, enabling her to fine tune her skills and reignite her passion for chocolate work.
An opportunity to work with the David Burke group took Renae to New York City, where she later worked at Marea and Aretsky’s Patroon. Two years later, Renae returned to Clio in Boston where she switched gears and moved behind the bar in order to explore the techniques of the bartending world.
In 2014, Renae returned to the kitchen and joined the opening team of Café ArtScience as pastry chef. Her unique creations, inspired from experiences she had traveling around the globe, included an extensive chocolate program. In 2015, Renae was recognized as one of StarChefs.com’s Boston-area Rising Stars. In 2016, The Improper Bostonian named her sweets “Boston’s Best Desserts.”
While living in Cambridge, Renae spent many off days at a small local Italian restaurant named Giulia. Eventually, she and Chef Michael Pagliarini began to talk about teaming up for a new project of his: Benedetto. In the fall of 2016 Benedetto opened inside the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. As the restaurant grew and flourished in its first year, Renae was recognized as the 2017 Boston Magazine’s Best pastry chef and a 2018 James Beard semi-finalist.