An Alabama chef was honored in a big way when she won the Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation earlier this month, according to the New York Times.
Dolester Miles, who was profiled by the Times, said she was shocked when won the award since she was nominated twice before and lost for her work at the Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, where she’s been employed at for over 30 years.
“At first I couldn’t move. I was just in disbelief,” Miles said.
The James Beard Foundation “[celebrates], nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone,” according to its website.
Miles was taught to bake by her mother and her aunt and is steeped in African-American baking traditions.
Becoming a pastry chef wasn’t something that Miles initially sought. When she graduated from high school, she went to college to pursue a career in computer science but ended up having to return home to have her daughter.
In 1982, she came across a new restaurant by Frank Stitt, Highlands Bar & Grill, where she was hired as a pantry chef, where she prepared salads.
Over time, Miles moved up the ranks and developed her dessert making skills, which has led her to make pies and cakes like her peach cobbler, which receives rave reviews.
“It’s the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. All of her cobblers are great, but the peach is the one that makes my soul burst into four-part harmony,” said Bill Addison a national restaurant critic for Eater.
Miles says she is always willing to learn more and doing a great job is rewarding enough.
“Just do hard work and keep reading books and keep learning,” she said. “That’s what I do every day because that’s my philosophy.”
To read more about Miles’ story, click here.