Q&A: Pastry chef Meegan Roberts

From the July 12, 2012 edition

Meegan Roberts has competed in numerous culinary competitions, but she’s about to attempt her first national one involving pastry, in hopes of being crowned the American Culinary Federation’s Pastry Chef of the Year. She won a regional contest in April to qualify, and she’s heading to the ACF’s National Convention in Orlando on July 15 for the main event. Roberts, the pastry chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club, has been putting in a lot of 18-hour days in preparation for the competition, but she says the hardest part is being apart from her four-year-old son.

I like doing both pastries and the savory stuff. I want to get really good at both of them. I want to get really good at pastries and go back to the hot side. Honestly, it’s made me a better chef in general because you really learn the science behind food and how it works.

My focus when I was in culinary school was definitely not pastries. I didn’t like doing pastries, and I didn’t get into them until about six years ago. It definitely took a lot of practice.

The competition at the national level includes two different plated desserts as well as a showpiece. This year they chose chocolate as the medium, and they also give you a theme to go with. They chose Hollywood for [the theme].

There are not too many females in the kitchen. A lot of times because you are a female, they tell you to go bake. It’s kind of like an unspoken expectancy in the field that they can do a little bit of pastry, too. So that’s kind of why I was just forced into it, because nobody else enjoyed doing it. I always like a challenge, and I always like to learn.

I also took the job as a pastry chef because I have a four-year-old son. It was more daytime hours. It’s nighttime hours also, but the majority is mornings and afternoons. My son likes doing pastries, too. He can roll dough out and crack eggs. He’s a good little helper and an even better taste tester.

My son and I spend a lot of time outdoors. We go hiking. We go fishing. We go to a lot of concerts; we’re big music fans. We’re going to go see Wilco on August 4. I spend a majority of my free time with my son because this industry, even when I’m not competing, is pretty demanding. I just don’t feel like I get enough time with him.

Photo by Tessa Berg