Pastry chef earns shot at regional competition
Hilliard resident Meegan Roberts, a pastry chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club, practices making pineapple upside-down cake, a mocha Bavarian and banana sorbet at the golf club April 19. Roberts is one of three pastry chefs participating April 28 in a regional competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation.
A Hilliard pastry chef is one of three women who will compete in New York on Saturday, April 28, in a regional competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation.
Meegan Roberts, 30, who is the pastry chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, will try to earn the title of Northeast Regional Pastry Chef of the Year at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn, N.Y.
The competition will be similar to what is seen on some kitchen-themed reality TV shows. The pastry chefs will prepare four portions of a hot or warm dessert featuring pineapple. They will have 15 minutes to set up, 60 minutes to cook, 10 minutes to plate the dessert and 15 minutes to clean up. Judges will evaluate cooking skills, taste and professionalism.
The winner will be announced April 30. She will advance to the national finals in Orlando, Fla., with an opportunity to win $5,000.
For the regional competition, the American Culinary Federation vetted and selected Roberts and the other competitors from a pool of applicants rather than having the contestants advancing from preliminary competitions.
“It’s such a huge honor to even be selected,” Roberts said. “Even if I don’t win, I will learn so much. I’ll win, no matter what.”
Although the regional competition is one of the most prestigious in which she has competed, Roberts has had success in similar competitions.
In 2006, she won the Dole Frozen Fruit recipe contest, and in 2011, she won the Northeast Region Paella, Please! contest, sponsored by the American Culinary Federation. She finished first runner-up in the national competition.
What might best prepare for her for the next competition, Roberts said, is the experience she gained as an alternate member of an “Olympic Team” that competed last year in Germany against some of the best chefs in the world.
“I love cooking for people … and bringing happiness to them when I see them smile after a meal,” she said.
Perhaps the person whose opinion she most values, and for whom she most enjoys preparing dishes, is her 4-year-old son, Robby.
“Robby is the best taster I could ask for,” said Roberts, who often prepares food based on pictures her son picks out in culinary-themed magazines. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
Roberts said she has lost track of time during the past several weeks, often turning in 18-hour days given her jobs at the golf club and community college, that of a mother and practicing for the regional competition.
“I’ll be up against some tremendous chefs,” she said.
That includes a chef she had met at a competition last year, Cher Harris, executive pastry chef at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pa.
“I went to one of (Harris’) demonstrations. I was impressed and respect her a lot,” Roberts said.
Maria Iacovitti, a pastry chef instructor at Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y., is the other contestant.
In addition to expertise in the kitchen, the American Culinary Federation also selected candidates based on service to the industry.
Roberts is an active member of the central Ohio community, volunteering at competitions and fundraisers and attending local chapter meetings of the American Culinary Federation.
“We’re all kind of a big family. We often spend holidays together and see one another more than our own families,” Roberts said of those in the restaurant industry.
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’s 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.