It’s safe to say everyone in Miami who loves food knows Brad Kilgore; James Beard Semifinalist, New Best Chef in America by Best Chefs America, one of Food & Wines Best New Chefs etc. But as the saying goes – behind every great man is an even greater woman. Enter: Soraya Kilgore, Brad’s incredibly talented right hand in life and pastry chef extraordinaire.
She may not be in the news as often, (or on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine, yet) but she’s got some serious talent.
As we move into Art Basel and Miami Art Week, it seemed appropriate for this week's Saturday Sweets to feature a talented artist, creating delicious and beautiful artwork every night at Alter and Brava by Brad Kilgore.
Soraya has loved pastry and baking for as long as she could remember. When she was a teenager, her parents decided to buy a bakery on a whim, and as she was off to culinary school they told her she could come back and run it. But of course, as many children do just to be rebellious, Soraya decided not to focus on pastry in school. It took her a few years, but she finally came back to her senses and returned to her first love – pastry and hasn’t looked back since.
While she still leaves most of the savory cooking to her husband Brad, she’s got a very impressive list of kitchens under her belt. Her first real kitchen job was at the Epic Hotel in Chicago. Fun fact: Brad was her boss! It’s in that kitchen she realized she was truly meant to be a pastry chef and how talented she really was.
Once the duo moved to Miami about six years ago, Soraya worked under Chef Sam Gorenstein ( of My Ceviche fame) at BLT Steak in The Betsy Hotel on South Beach. She was given the freedom to create a special dessert each week and credits that opportunity to helping her grow creatively with techniques and new flavor combinations. In her words, “it kept her hungry for more.” At the Setai, she worked under Chef Sylvain Marrari, an extremely passionate French chef, who taught her more than anyone else. He taught her how important it was to keep her composure in the kitchen, keep herself and her station clean, and constant etiquette and serious technique. He’s the kind of chef that could make even a firecracker like Soraya cry a time or two, but at the end of the day every tear was worth the growth that is inspired from it. The two chefs are still great friends today.
These days she is the Executive Pastry Chef at both year and a half old James Beard semi-finalist Best New Restaurant, Alter in Wynwood, and newcomer to the Miami food scene, Brava by Brad Kilgore at the Adrienne Arsht Center. She’s making desserts that look more like masterpieces than endings to a delicious meal. She loves keeping her ingredients fresh and seasonal and keeping her pastry team small. There’s barely a handful of staff working pastry at both spots combined. This week Brava is debuting a new winter dessert with all of the flavors we crave – warm spice cake, pumpkin semifreddo, tamari sage caramel, clove meringue, mascarpone, and apple butter. I’ll need 3 please!
Trials and technique will always be most important to Soraya, as the finished product must always be on point. During our conversation, we were perched outside at Alter and one of her team members came out with a Cherry Sorbet for her to try. I think one of the highlights of our chat was watching her taste it over and over again dissecting it and offering positive feedback and criticism. Her skilled taste buds were able to pick out each flavor and suggest modifications down to the exact gram of measurement to use. I was completely fascinated. Admittedly, as much as I love baking, I have zero professional technique – I just kind of figure things out along the way. Soraya is definitely an inspiration, and may lead me to taking a class or two on my own.
Soraya is not only dominating the pastry game herself, but she wants to help bring the spotlight to the amazing pastry chefs all over the city. She says there’s so much talent here and it’s not concentrated on as much as it should be. We are all familiar with Antonio Bachour and Josh Gripper of The Dutch (both who have been fabulous Saturday Sweets topics), but there’s a lot of kick ass women running pastry kitchens all over that deserve to be talked about. We chattered about how we are both big fans of Maria Ortanes of the Pubbelly Group and think she’s a beast in the kitchen. Confession: I dream of her brunch Dough Bar constantly. Hopefully 2017 is the year to make the change, there’s even a pastry focused event or two that she’s aspiring to put together and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Miami is very lucky to have Brad Kilgore, but equally lucky to have his wife Soraya.
223 NW 23rd Street
305 573 5996
Arsht Center 1300 Biscayne Blvd
305 949 6722