Syracuse baker expands Fatcat Baking to commercial kitchen

Syracuse baker expands Fatcat Baking to commercial kitchen

After attending her first baking event years ago, Megan Rydzak dove head-first into starting her own all-vegan bakery.

Megan Rydzak stands in her commercial kitchen space
Sophie Cohen
Fatcat Baking owner Megan Rydzak in her kitchen.

When Megan Rydzak started Fatcat Baking out of her home in 2020, she never expected her operation to move to Mello Velo Cafe’s kitchen, where she once worked as a prep and line cook.

“I used to hate baking and I also used to hate cats,” Rydzak said. “Which is very funny, because it’s two things I hated the most in life and now that’s all I do.” 

This summer, Rydzak realized Fatcat, her all-vegan bakery that serves classic pastries like layered cakes, pop-tarts, cookies, scones, donuts, and macarons, would need more space and resources than her home kitchen could handle. 

In the fall of 2019, Rydzak was working at Mello Velo Cafe and playing roller derby for the Salt City Roller Derby team, where she was also on the board of directors. Starting a bakery was an idea in the back of her mind, but she didn’t know if she had the time and resources to do so.

Around Halloween that same year, an event for independent business owners called Creepy Christmas caught Rydzak’s attention. It took place in the McCarthy Mercantile, an underground shopping space that highlights local artisans and business owners. Rydzak believed this was a perfect opportunity to put her home baking skills to the test by selling some spooky pastries to the Syracuse community. 

Rydzak stayed up the entire night, baking lemon basil scones and ube sweet potato tarts with cut-out cats delicately placed on top. She attended the event with her husband, Alex Rydzak, and it sold out within two hours. 

“When I got home I was like wow, that was so physically draining, but that made me so happy,” Rydzak said. 

After the event, Rydzak decided that she was going to pursue Fatcat whenever she had free time. By January 2020, Fatcat was a legal business with a home processing license. By March, Fatcat was a full-time endeavor after being furloughed from Mello Velo due to the pandemic. 

Livvy Doe, a senior and advertising major at Syracuse University, remembers ordering a cake from Fatcat for her 20th birthday. Doe was vegan at the time and loved that Fatcat made classic desserts with a vegan twist. 

“I think I got a cookies and cream cake with strawberry frosting. She painted these beautiful little flowers on it and dropped it off at my dorm hall,” Doe said. “She was so kind and she even took a picture of me with the cake for [Fatcat’s] Instagram account.

As Fatcat’s popularity grew, the limited space in Rydzak’s home-kitchen became a problem. She bought a third oven shelf and a combo oven (she named Lisa) to accept more orders. But there still was not enough room to bake more than a dozen cupcakes. 

Rydzak had been thinking about moving into a bigger space since fall of 2022 but never made the move to do so until spring 2023 due to financial reasons. At this time, Mello Velo Cafe had been closed for a few months and moving into their commercial kitchen seemed like an almost perfect place to land.  

Rydzak went from having not enough space to having too much: when her old boss from Mello Velo Cafe reached out, she offered the entire cafe area plus the commercial kitchen. 

“We were definitely not ready to jump into renting an entire freaking cafe,” Rydzak said.

Thankfully the tattoo studio, Resurrected Tattoo, moved into the cafe seating section of the building and Rydzak was able to rent just the kitchen. The new space came with a commercial oven which cuts baking time in half: a tray of cupcakes that would take 30 minutes to bake at home, is now ready in 15-minutes with the new oven. 

Although moving into the new kitchen made the baking process faster, Alex Rydzak, Megan’s partner, shared the challenges of moving from a legal standpoint. 

“It’s kind of like starting over again in a sense,” Alex said. “There was a crazy amount of bureaucracy we had to do in terms of getting a health inspector and registering with the FDA as a food producer.” 

Alex often jokes with Rydzak that he is in charge of whatever she doesn’t want to do. In this partnership, that means Alex is in charge of the numbers and paperwork. But he wouldn’t have it any other way, he said. 

“At the end of the day I just want to help her as much as possible,” Alex said. “She could have gone into shoe making and I would have supported her.” 

Rydzak plans to continue baking her delicious pastries, reaching out to more cafes and coffee shops in the Syracuse area for wholesale opportunities and even has dreams of opening a grab-and-go style storefront one day. 

“Having a storefront would allow us to explore selling hot foods,” Rydzak said. “I love cooking for people and want to continue to do it for as long as I can.”