Sera Cuni | Co-owner, general manager and chef
Born in Trumbull, Conn., Sera grew up in a family of self-taught cooks who enthusiastically embraced their Italian and Czech heritages. Her childhood is filled with kitchen memories: Draping handmade pastas rolled out by her grandparents’ expert hands over the backs of dining room chairs, stirring pots of garlicky tomato sauce until simmered to perfection, and creaming butter and cottage cheese for flaky Kolacky cookies at Christmastime. For the Cuni family, such traditions, including sharing home-cooked meals together every evening, were the necessary ingredients for an abundant life. The bonding experiences also helped pave the way for Sera’s career. Although a talented athlete who excelled at soccer, Sera’s interest took a significant swing thanks to Saturday mornings with her father, who first introduced her to Julia Child and her cooking shows on PBS. After attending Green Mountain College in Vermont on a soccer scholarship, Sera took her passion for food and cooking back to Connecticut, where she graduated from culinary school. Over the course of her career, Sera has worked as a chef at Main and Hopewell, Americus on the Wharf, and Pastis all in Connecticut; at the Fearrington House Inn in Chapel Hill, and Nordstrom’s Café in Durham. In 2006, Sara Foster hired her as a chef and kitchen manager for the Foster’s Market Chapel Hill restaurant. She was promoted to general manager in 2008. She and her wife Susan purchased the Chapel Hill location on Jan. 1, 2013. Sera still considers Sara Foster a mentor and as such abides by her primary food ethic—that great food doesn’t have to be fancy.
Susan White | Co-owner and marketing manager
Unlike her foodie partner, Susan is a product of the South—a child raised on easy-to-bake casseroles and Sunday lunches of fried chicken, deviled eggs and savory green beans. However, like Sera, Susan also discovered her passion early. Growing up, she loved to write poems and stories, a hobby she eventually mustered up the courage to pursue professionally. A graduate of Campbell University with a BA degree in mass communication, Susan worked for 17 years as a journalist, including for The Daily Reflector in Greenville, N.C., The Winston-Salem Journal, in Winston-Salem, N.C. and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. Susan spent the majority of her journalism career shining a brighter light on social justice issues, including poverty, homelessness, mental illness and hunger. Over the years, she received numerous awards for her emotional and thought-provoking storytelling, including the national Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her reporting on children and families. In 2008, she left newspapers and joined the UNC School of Social Work as a marketing writer and academic editor. Shortly after moving back to North Carolina, Susan met Sera over a delicious meal with friends. Although opposite in many ways, their partnership in life and in business is a well-balanced one filled with love, laughter and of course, great food.
Lucas Doty | Chef and kitchen manager
Lucas grew up with working parents, a sister and three brothers in Holley, NY, a quiet community just outside of Rochester. Some of his earliest and most memorable food experiences were with his Ukrainian-born grandmother, who spoiled the family with homemade Swedish meatballs, pillowy pierogies stuffed with cheddar and potato and fried donuts sprinkled with powdered sugar. Growing up in a time-starved family that shuttled from one school-sporting event to another, Lucas admits his childhood diet regularly consisted of a lot of fast food. However, those experiences eventually influenced his desire to learn more about how to prepare tastier, healthier meals. His induction into the food industry came at his uncle’s Italian restaurant in Brockport, NY, where Lucas first worked as a dishwasher and prep cook. After moving to North Carolina in 2009, Lucas enrolled in culinary school at the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham. While attending school, Lucas started working in the kitchen at Foster’s Market in Durham. He took over as chef and kitchen manager at Foster’s Market Chapel Hill in the summer of 2012, shortly after graduating with a degree in culinary management. He and his wife, Callie (also a Foster’s alum) were married in 2013. Like Sera, Lucas believes that the portrait of a delicious meal involves simple, fresh ingredients and family and friends to share it.
Rachel Plast | Director of Catering
Rachel has experience coordinating event planning and catering with an emphasis on supporting community with locally sourced ingredients. She grew up in rural Wisconsin, where her love of cooking and food started at a young age. Her family heritage consists of a long line of dairy farmers where she gained her appreciation for the “farm-to-table” philosophy.
Rachel graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelors of science in community and environmental sociology. In college, she founded a Gluten Free College Organization, was active on the Board of Dietetics & Nutrition Club, and was a member/intern for Slow Food University of Wisconsin. Also, during Rachel’s college career she was enrolled in Semester at Sea where she visited 7 countries, an experience that ignited her love of international travel.
Prior to moving to Chapel Hill and joining The Root Cellar in early 2016, Rachel was employed at 61 Local in Brooklyn, New York as the events and programming manager. Rachel was responsible for coordinating locally sourced catering and programming for the public and private event reservations.
In her free time, Rachel loves to cook and to experiment with gluten free and traditional recipes. Rachel is thrilled to be a part of the Root Cellar team and looks forward to providing outstanding customer service and delicious food.