As kids, Rebekah and Sally Ontiveros would battle it out in epic Iron Chef-style cooking competitions in their home kitchen. Now the sisters are making their baking dreams come true—Netflix style.
The Ontiveros sisters, who run The Hive Bakeshop in Brunswick, MD, appear on Season 3 of the hit baking show “Sugar Rush,” which drops Friday, July 31. The sisters competed against three other teams for a $10,000 prize in a high-pressure timed contest that includes competitions in cupcakes, confections and cakes.
For these two sisters with very different personalities, running a business together and appearing on a hit baking show has been the ultimate bonding experience. There may be disagreements, but in the end, they have each other’s backs.
“Having The Hive helped put us in a situation where we knew how to depend on each other. We knew what our strengths were going in. We knew what our weaknesses were going in, and we just had to know we were going to be enough,” Rebekah said.
When Sally launched The Hive in 2018, she knew she was taking a risk opening an artisan bakery in a small, working-class town.
“We had a guy who came in and told us we weren’t going to make it because Brunswick is a doughnut town. And we don’t do doughnuts,” Sally said.
One of the first local reviews called the bakeshop “more gas station than Georgetown.”
But Rebekah left her 9 to 5 job to join the bakery shortly after it opened, and the sisters worked hard to create a homey feel in their unassuming brick building on Brunswick’s main drag. And they refused to let the naysayers sway them from their vision: creative, upscale, internationally inspired cakes and pastries with small town appeal.
Over the past two years, The Hive has developed a devoted following in both Brunswick and just across the Potomac in Lovettsville, where Rebekah lives with her husband Chris Gardner. Sally, who spent her teen years in Lovettsville, now lives in Brunswick with her husband Ian Fuze, so the family now has roots on both sides of the river. The sisters and their staff create specialty cakes, fancy cupcakes, sweet and savory scones and their signature macarons in a range of wild and wonderful flavors.
“It’s a very small community bakery but we’ve put a lot of effort into it,” Rebekah said. “No day is ever the same, and that helps us in something like ‘Sugar Rush’ because we’re always thinking, we’re always innovating. We’re taking classic French pastry and thinking outside the box. … I love it because no cake is the same. I love the challenge of waking up every day and knowing it’s not going to be the same day I had yesterday.”
“I love that people come here because they want our take on something,” she said. “It’s not like picking a cake out of a catalogue. It gives you that creative freedom and a sense of ownership you can’t really get anywhere else.”
Rebekah applied for a spot on “Sugar Rush” a year and a half ago without telling anyone—including her sister. After more than a year without a reply, she was ready to let go of the dream, assuming they hadn’t made the cut. Then a surprise phone call came out of the blue, and the whirlwind began.
Netflix flew the sisters to Los Angeles to record the episode in February, with strict orders to keep everything hush-hush until just before the season premiere. For the sisters, it was a once in a lifetime experience, but also something of a blur.
“You think you’ve got it, and then you get there and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s a cupcake?’ Rebekah said. “It’s exhilarating. It’s terrifying. It’s amazing because these are the people you look up to and they’re right there in front of your face tasting your food, and it’s really incredible just to be in the same room.”
Recording the show was also physically demanding, even for Sally, an avid rock climber.
“Honestly, I don’t remember half of it. It was that intense” Sally said. “We were sore the next day though.”
The sisters haven’t seen the edited version of the show so are looking forward to seeing the action from the other side of the screen. They can’t divulge results or even which episode they appear in, so friends and fans on both sides of the Potomac will undoubtedly be binge-watching this weekend.
Rebekah and Sally Ontiveros grew up in Anchorage, AK, in the ’90s and were food-fascinated kids when the original “Iron Chef” made its debut. Chairman Kaga was the girls’ hero, and they started challenging each other to homegrown cooking competitions. Rebekah, who’s five years older, usually came out on top. But it was Sally who wound up being pulled toward professional baking first.
The Ontiveros family moved to Reno, NV, in the early 2000s, where Rebekah graduated from high school and started college. The family settled down in Lovettsville in 2007, and Sally finished her junior and senior year at Loudoun Valley High School. Rebekah transferred to University of Maryland College Park to be closer to her family and earned an English degree. Sally went on to study geology and geography at James Madison University and got her first baking experience at a small Mennonite bakery in Harrisonburg during her college years. She worked for a nonprofit outdoor adventure organization in California after college. But when she returned to Northern Virginia, she knew she wanted to shift gears. She spent time, first as a cashier and then as a baker/manager at Cupcakes Actually in Leesburg and Fairfax before opening The Hive.
Meanwhile, Rebekah, who went into early childhood education after college and was a sought-after preschool director, was also looking for a change, and Sally realized she needed help with the business. Sally initially brought her older sister in to help with wedding coordination, but Rebekah’s role has expanded, and now the two are full-on partners.
“It truly is a partnership now which is really cool,” Sally said. “She has a lot of things she brings to the table that I don’t have”
The two sisters have always had very different personalities and interests, Sally says, but it works—both at the bakeshop and on the show. Sally, 28, is the dreamer and ideas person and Rebekah, 33, is the planner and logistics pro.
“It really captured our dynamic—the sister dynamic and the archetype of sisters,” Sally said. “You go from absolutely loving each other to being like, ‘Stop it…What are you doing over there?’ and then back to, ‘This is amazing I wouldn’t want to be here with anybody else.’”
The sisters’ influences include their tight-knit family and a shared love of travel inspired by their parents, who also live in Lovettsville. Bringing experiences from their travels to their respective small towns is a daily challenge and a daily joy. And both running a business together and the “Sugar Rush” experience have brought them closer.
“It really did bring us so much closer than I think any word or catch phrase can describe,” Rebekah said. “She’s my sister, she’s going to have my back no matter what. If I had been there with anybody else, I would probably have the feeling I need to babysit them. … But I didn’t have to worry about that because I knew she was going to tell me exactly what she was thinking.”
Season 3 of “Sugar Rush,” with an episode featuring Rebekah and Sally Ontiveros, drops Friday, July 31 on Netflix. The Hive Bakeshop is located at 318 Petersville Road in Brunswick, MD. For more information and hours, go to hivebakeshop.com.