Jonathan and Megan Pidgeon ’07, Chef/Owners
Sweet Smell of Success
Megan and Jonathan Pidgeon recently celebrated the four-year anniversary of their successful donut shop, Glazed Donuts, located in Key West, FL. It’s the southernmost donut shop in the continental United States. The 800-square-foot space turns out 30-dozen yeast and cake donuts daily, serving both retail and wholesale clients. “Everything is made from scratch including the frostings, glazes, jellies, and even the sprinkles,” Megan says.
She externed under James Beard award winner Richard Leech at Park Avenue Café and spent two years in the Napa Valley working under James Beard award winner Nicole Plue. Jonathan has spent time on the competition BBQ circuit, as a high volume off-premise caterer, and as executive chef of Blackfin Bistro in Key West, prior to opening Glazed.
The two met as undergrads pursing their associate degrees at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus. Their love affair continued as they completed the bachelor’s program. During her studies, Megan had the opportunity to work with Chef-instructor Francisco Migoya at The Apple Pie Bakery Café. “Working for him was probably the most influential experience I had at school. He was really great about making things properly and explaining the reasoning along the way,” she says. “It was through Chef Migoya’s blog that I learned about frying laminated dough, which has become an integral part of our business.”
For Jonathan, one of the highlights of his time at the CIA was The Conrad N. Hilton Library. “It’s just an incredible resource. I read every book on beer, whiskey, meat, and fish. I think I read more than 500 books,” Jonathan says. They both agree the education they received at the CIA laid the foundation for their thriving business. “Nowhere else you can learn so many techniques in such a short time from people who know how to teach,” Jonathan says.
“At the CIA you learn product identification and how the ingredients behave and interact. It might sound basic but that kind of knowledge is vitally important. All the raised donuts we make are affected by weather and humidity. I learned how to make adjustments to my dough to ensure a consistent final product,” says Megan. “Completing the bachelor’s degree gives you a really good perspective on the restaurant industry. When you graduate from the CIA you can pretty much go into the industry and do anything.”
Jonathan concurs. “I can read balance sheets and easily gauge our food cost percentages. I can look at our bank account and orders and tell how we’re doing business-wise, he explains. “In terms of owning our business, the bachelor’s degree was invaluable. We do everything from accounting to employee training to payroll. We can react to changes in the industry accordingly and, as a result, we’re growing our business faster.”
As members of the college’s 49,000+ alumni, Megan and Jonathan can count on an experienced talent pool when hiring for their business. “By hiring a CIA graduate, I know they already have the foundation—an understanding of techniques and the importance of working cleanly and quickly. In the end, a CIA grad will costs me less time and money to train,” says Megan. “And the nicest part about hiring a fellow alumnus is you know they care. It’s their chosen profession and they come with a diverse and varied background.”
When asked what advice he would give students thinking about attending the CIA, Jonathan says with a smile, “Realize that you don’t know anything. Go into school with an open mind and, by all means, check out the library. It seems like every two years since graduation I’ve doubled my knowledge. There is just so much to learn and it can only be learned through hours and hours of repetition. In our industry you never stop learning!”
Happily, business is flourishing for Megan and Jonathan. In 2013, USA Today listed Glazed Donuts as one of the 10 great donut places in the U.S. Popular Floridian chef Norman Van Aken included the shop in his Insider Guide to Key West Restaurants for Food & Wine magazine. In April 2016, StarChefs.com named Megan the South Florida Rising Star Pastry Chef .
In an area of the country that boasts nearly perfect weather year round, Megan and Jonathan are able to choose from a cornucopia of fresh, tropical fruit for their innovative flavor pairing. “I always have dough curing in different stages so we’re able to serve fresh donuts all day long. Some of my most popular include the maple bourbon with candied bacon, blood orange bulls-eye glazed, tangerine pastry cream with candied kumquats, and the mango hibiscus,” Megan says. This year the couple started a coffee roasting program called Red Buoy. “Now we’ll have two storefront windows, one with glazed donuts and one with roasting coffee.” Sweet indeed.