Cooking the Line: Megan Hess

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Megan working the oven station at MGFD with TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron at Brunch this past Sunday during Art Basel. Click the photo for a Hyperlapse of the action on Instagram.

It was 3:00 p.m. and another Sunday Brunch shift had blown through Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.  As Megan and I sat in the courtyard, she was still in her “Chef Yoga” pants but off her feet for the first time since 7:00 a.m.  “Is my hair in order?” she asked, taking off her cap.  Megan had prepared and cooked countless dishes from the wood oven station, made even more numerous due to Brunch’s special small plates format.  She was the only girl on the savory line that morning, yet the classic Megan smile as big and bright as you’ll ever see was out in full force, the same after the shift as it was before.

“I love it! There are a lot of jokes! I grew up with an older brother and his friends and I am used to it.”

Being a line cook isn’t easy.  It’s a rough and tumble job, both mentally and physically, and not for the faint of heart.  Even as a strong woman, it’s not difficult to see how the prestigious title of Chef has more often been awarded to men more than women.  In this battlefield of orders, cutlery and fire, one must shed the individual – the passion that put you there – and don the team.  One must trust and be trusted otherwise it just doesn’t work.  Our Genuine team consists of talented and passionate individuals, from the host to the wood oven, and from savory to pastry, who do just that. Everyday. And Megan, well, she’s a perfect example.

“I guess it all started back in Ohio,” Megan shares.  “I first learned how to make French toast when I was 5 years old with my great grandmother. By middle school I wanted to be a pastry chef.”

In fact, her heart was so set for the culinary world, that Megan attended a technical high school where she competed in culinary competitions junior and senior year; and she wooed judges at an early age. The experience made her fall in love with the food and beverage industry. At the recommendation of her advisor at North Miami’s Johnson & Wales University where she currently studies culinary arts and food service management, Megan applied for a part-time internship at Michael’s Genuine to put her techniques into practice.  She was hired as a full-time line cook shortly after.

“Megan’s a quick learner and she doesn’t complain. She just gets the job done,” explains Daniel Ramirez who at the time of Megan’s internship was a sous chef at Michael’s Genuine. He’s now Chef de Cuisine at Harry’s Pizzeria. “I think we [Chef de Cuisine Niven Patel, Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, and sous-chef Jason Arroyo] were astonished that her passion and talent went hand in hand with solid execution and professionalism.  It’s a hard combination to come by especially in a young cook.”

Megan welcomed the additional responsibility. She worked hard and played hard. She was in short, genuine.  Continuing her studies full-time, she attends school from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on most weekdays, and then comes to work at 3:00 p.m. I asked, “When do you do your homework?” and she replied “Within those three hours of course.”  As a student myself juggling work, I was impressed.  “On my days off, I nap,” this 21 year old admits.

Megan is often assigned to work at the wood oven, a very challenging station, and her favorite. Why so? She shares that the challenge motivates her. She does not receive a ticket with a list of what she is to prepare. Rather, she must remember what the Chef at the expo line requested, on the fly! In addition, she can prepare the whole snapper and the whole “Poulet Rouge.” Yum!

“My favorite dish to make at MGFD is the pasta,” Megan says.  “I love the variety at the sauté station, since it changes daily, and that we make it in house, fresh.  I also enjoy working at the grill due to the tempo. Well, I can have fun at pretty much any station!”

Megan dreams of success and a family, but also to be like Niven one day. Who says you can’t have it all? In addition, she hopes  to motivate and teach students at technical schools, as she once was, to encourage them to pursue their goals. We say that girls like Megan truly make the dream team happen.

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