Milena Pagan


Little Sister - Providence, Rhode Island

Owner, Baker & Chef, Rebelle Bagels & Little Sister
Milena Pagán was born and raised in Caguas, Puerto Rico, a tiny archipelago colony of the U.S. in the Caribbean. Often restless and rebellious, Milena spent her childhood trying a lot of new things. She’s a Scorpio sun (super intense, deep, passionate and layered) and a Capricorn rising (structured, determined, ambitious, always forging ahead). At 17, Milena moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (*MIT) with a full scholarship. She graduated in the class of 2011 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and had the opportunity to return to the institute in 2019 for her M.B.A. studies at the MIT School of Management (put on hold for exciting opportunities in the food world!). Upon graduation, Milena’s career path took her to Providence, Rhode Island to work a corporate job, then in 2017, she pivoted to bagels. With her modest savings and some help in the form of a Kickstarter campaign, Milena opened Rebelle Artisan Bagels on the East Side of Providence. She continued on to open Little Sister, a Puerto Rican Cafe in the same neighborhood in 2020.

Food is Milena’s love language she has been cooking and baking since she was a little girl. As a child, cooking gave her a sense of independence and self-reliance. Before she was admitted to MIT, she talked herself out of applying to culinary school for fear that she wouldn’t be able to make a living out of it. Now she is happy to have realized her teenage dream of working with her hands and doing the honest work of feeding people. In a world that feels increasingly shaky and fake, cooking for others keeps Milena grounded.  Milena’s culinary endeavors have earned her recognition from national outlets like Bon Appétit & The New York Times, a semifinalist nod from the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Northeast in 2023, and most recently, an exciting win on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games. She was recognized for her business acumen by EY as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020, the year the pandemic pushed her into overdrive, and she pivoted Rebelle into an online bagel store with delivery / bodega with fresh produce and biweekly donations to a local food pantry.

Currently, Milena is in the process of relocating Rebelle Bagels from Providence to her old stomping grounds in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She continues to cook, bake and serve wine at Little Sister, makes custom cakes to order, keeps a vibrant edible garden at home and travels the world meeting winemakers to curate Little Sister’s wine collection. Milena lives with her husband Darcy, and splits her time between Providence, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts and San Juan, Puerto Rico.