A 30-year-old Hilliard pastry chef considers her experience at a national competition of the American Culinary Foundation in Orlando, Fla., just the beginning in the experience and expertise required to be the best in the kitchen.

A 30-year-old Hilliard pastry chef considers her experience at a national competition of the American Culinary Foundation in Orlando, Fla., just the beginning in the experience and expertise required to be the best in the kitchen.

Meegan Roberts was one of four chefs who competed for the title of American Culinary Pastry Chef of the Year at the 2012 National Convention of the American Culinary Foundation July 14-17.

Roberts represented the northeast region of the U.S. She won the title of Northeast Regional Pastry Chef of the Year by besting two other chefs at an April 28 American Culinary Foundation competition in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

"I still have so much to learn but I am so excited, too, for the future," Roberts said.

Unlike the regional competition in New York where she worked alone and won the title with her pineapple upside down cake, contestants in the national competition in Orlando were required to work with an assistant or apprentice.

Roberts, a pastry chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, tapped 20-year-old Brittany Stone, a Gahanna resident who attends the Delaware Area Career Center and works at the snack shop at Muirfield.

In the weeks leading up to the national competition, Roberts and Stone worked upwards of 40 hours a week in addition to their jobs at the golf club.

"We often practiced in the middle of the night, because even if we found a little time during the day, someone would interrupt us," Roberts said. "But that was OK because I do my best work in the middle of the night."

Roberts credits Stone and her mentor, Linda Bioggoni, for her successful run to the national competition.

For the regional competition, Roberts prepared a single dessert, but for the national competition, each candidate had to prepare and serve three items: a cold contemporary plated dessert, a hot restaurant-style dessert and a "showpiece" at least two feet in height and representing the designated theme of "Hollywood."

Each contestant had precisely two-and-a-half hours to prepare and present all three items.

Roberts' showpiece was a chocolate and sugar confection that illustrated reels and a strip of film.

The competition was the third national competition for Roberts.

"There is always more to learn. ... It was a great experience," Roberts said.

The Orlando World Marriott Center hosted the conference and the competition.

Adalberto Diaz Labrada of Salt Lake City won the title of the American Culinary Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year and a $5,000 cash prize. A runner-up was not named.

Roberts' career as a pastry chef began at Burgundy's Italian Grill, a small family-operated Italian restaurant in Lima, where she worked while in high school. She graduated from Shawnee High School in Lima and attended an art school in Cincinnati prior to redirecting her focus back to the kitchen.

"I went to art school because I've always had a creative side, but I also wanted to work in a kitchen," she said. "Food is also a medium of art."

Roberts earned an associate degree in culinary arts from Hocking College in 2005. Currently, she is an instructor at the college while continuing to work full time at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Her responsibilities at the golf club include developing menus, creating specialty cakes, hosting cooking classes and working private parties.

Prior to joining the staff at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Roberts worked at the Athletic Club of Columbus and at Handke's Cuisine.

"I love cooking for people ... and bringing happiness to them when I see them smile after a meal," she said.