Miranda Brown plates art. Her sweet confections and pastries, now the star of the show at The Asbury in Uptown, are intricately crafted bites that range from classic flavor pairings (think chocolate and peanut butter) to the unexpected (like her sweet corn popsicle).
With no formal training, Miranda has distinguished herself as one of the premier chefs, winning NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year this past summer. She taught herself, with hands-on experience and roles alongside other chef mentors. And she’s pushing the envelope of sweets in the city with her new role as Head Pastry Chef at one of Charlotte’s most iconic hotels.
Miranda stepped away from the kitchen to tell us about her new position at The Asbury, making desserts artistic, and learning alongside Ashley Boyd of 300 East.
What inspires you as a chef?
I get inspired by different local ingredients. Sometimes, I stumble upon something I’ve never worked with before and that is always a fun challenge.
How did you go about deciding what desserts would be on the menu?
I look at what is in season first and build from there. Is there anything I haven’t tried before? If I want to use a unique ingredient, the season is usually a lot shorter. So I have to figure out how long I can run the dessert on the menu before I will run out of that ingredient and need to change it for a new dessert.
How did you get your start as a pastry chef?
As a final project during my senior year of high school, we had to learn something new through an internship. I chose cake decorating because I thought it would be a fun and easy grade… I was so wrong. It turns out that baking was a lot more hectic and involved than I thought, and I fell in love with it.
After that, I spent a lot of time working front of house in restaurants. However, I started to miss the thrill of being in the kitchen, the scramble to get things done and learning different techniques. Finally, after some urging from my boyfriend—who is also a chef—I decided to get my foot into the kitchen.
You’ve said you learned your craft mainly through mentorships. Tell us about that.
I landed my first few pastry assistant jobs and threw out a shot in the dark by commenting on Ashley Boyd’s Instagram and asking if she needed any interns. A few months later, I started at 300 East to help out with restaurant week. From there, they hired me as a pastry assistant, then promoted me to pastry sous chef.
Two years later (and with Ashley’s full-support), I decided it was it was time to go off on my own.
Your desserts are beautiful—how did you learn to do the “artistic” side of pastry making?
I let my mind go blank when I’m plating, and I adapt to what I’m seeing “in the zone.” When I have a certain image of how I want the plate to look in my mind, I feel like I’m forcing it and it doesn’t come out right.
In your opinion, what makes one pastry or dessert better than another?
I like very simple desserts, but I also love strange and complicated desserts. It doesn’t matter how you combine the flavors and textures or plating so much as how memorable it is. I had a very simple strudel at J. Betski’s in Raleigh recently, and I still can’t get it out of my head. It wasn’t pretentious at all, it was just so, so, so delicious—every bite was full of flavor.
How does working at The Asbury complement your talents? When did you start there?
I started at The Asbury in December of 2017, and I love it.
While it is primarily a Southern restaurant, we have freedom to create dishes that are really thought-provoking and different. We have some simple dishes too—which I think is great because they are approachable to everyone. I try to keep that in mind with my desserts as well. It’s important to me to have an option for someone who just wants something familiar.
I also really love how farmer-centric we are. It’s not plastered all over the menu, but most of everything we use comes from farms that we know and trust.