Just as savory courses are a fundamental part of every menu, pastry is equally essential. The pastry chef of today has to wear many hats, working in unison with the chef de cuisine of a restaurant. White Oak Kitchen and Cocktail’s pastry chef Megan Brent just donned another hat as she landed the esteemed role of executive chef.
In just a few short years, Brent’s red-hot trajectory went from student to pastry chef to executive chef. The Georgia native graduated with an Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts a little over four years ago. To pay for her textbooks, Brent sold homemade cakes. It was this and other pastry work that Jennifer and Tony Tiberia of Sprig Restaurant and Bar noticed on her resume when she arrived for an externship. She worked the line and also took charge of the pastry menu. Eager to learn, she then worked mornings crafting pastry for Bold American Events while plating desserts in the evenings at Empire State South and Ink & Elm.
In 2014 she met chef Todd Richards while working as sous chef at The Pig and the Pearl. “Chef Todd will always be someone who helped shape my cooking style,” Brent told us. “He helped me rediscover my Southern roots.” It was her that she began winning pastry competitions. After opening JP Atlanta as sous chef and pastry chef, she was back working with Richards at White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails as pastry chef in 2016.
This summer she was invited to cook at The James Beard House as a Georgia Grown Executive chef, a program to promote and foster relationships between chefs and farmers. The program has helped her bring “the best products possible” to the menu at White Oak.
Food and Wine Magazine recently produced a video showcasing her cuisine using seasonal produces and locally foraged ingredients. A cast iron skillet fills the screen with Riverview Farms pork belly basting in bacon butter with sprigs of thyme and wild chanterelles. It’s the same sentiment as her cremeux with sweet corn, peak of the season blueberries, a blueberry-thyme sorbet and corn kernel butter crunch. Her pastry shows that desserts can have have multiple textures and flavors that conjure the season.
Now, as she evolves into her role as executive chef, Brent is still focused on the same concept for creating a dessert menu: ingredients, technique, flavor, texture and appearance. “Only now I use more proteins,” she says. She is also building and teacher her new team. “You can have the best menu, but if you don’t have a team to execute it, than it’s just paper.”
You can feel her passion and drive when she talks about food and you can see it on a plate. Continue to watch as she sets of sparks in the culinary scene.