Life is Sweet
By June Naylor
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Megan Rountree talks kids, cakes, competing on television and keeping a business afloat
In a year that was typical for absolutely no one, Megan Rountree’s 2020 experience takes the cake — so to speak. The pastry chef/owner of Legacy Cakes in Grapevine found ways to turn an especially difficult year into one chock-full of positives: She began moonlighting at a lucrative second job while keeping her bakery afloat; in late fall, she and husband Michael Rountree welcomed their third child, a baby girl. She competed in — and very nearly won — a national TV food competition while spending a third of her pregnancy living in the coastal California resort where it was filmed. Meanwhile, she and her husband continue with a side gig, coaching at a CrossFit gym in Southlake a couple of days a week. Who could top that?
“It was a little chaotic at times,” Megan nods, sharing her ready laugh. “It was exhausting but good.”
When the pandemic descended last spring, a business heavily reliant upon weddings and birthday celebrations experienced what she calls “a screeching halt.” Rather than despair, Megan seized an opportunity to turn things around. She and her team of five began creating cookie-baking and cake-decorating kits for families sheltering at home.
Meanwhile, her husband’s workload grew. As interest rates fell to record lows, Southlake mortgage business soared. He needed a lot of immediate help.
“You have to be creative in a pandemic. It’s not what I ever wanted to do, working with numbers instead of creatively, but my husband and I bonded in new ways. I got to spend more time with him than I had in six years, and now I know and understand his business,” Megan says. “And I could give my employees more hours. We have a great team at Legacy, and we could keep it together.”
The perfect storm of unpredictable but happy events continued: As she went to work at Michael’s mortgage business, Megan learned she was pregnant, and then she was invited to audition for one of 12 slots on the Food Network’s seventh season of the “Holiday Baking Championship.”
“They first reached out when I was about eight weeks pregnant, in early March, and then things shut down for a while. In May we started talking again, and I did an audition cake that I presented on Zoom,” she said. “There was a lot of back and forth, discussion about dates and availability to travel to Los Angeles.”
A veteran of two previous national TV baking competitions, Megan understood the demands of such an extensive event. In 2011, soon after graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship, gaining her pastry chef certification from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin and marrying Michael, she competed on TLC’s “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker” show, finishing as runner-up. In 2019, she won Food Network’s “Winner Cake All.” Not one to sit still, she opened Legacy Cakes after the first competition and also became a mom for the first time. Her second baby came just after the second contest.
With clearance from her doctor, Megan flew to Los Angeles in June for three months of TV filming. She and 11 fellow competitors took up residence at Terranea on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where the resort’s spacious accommodations allowed for social distancing. “The producers were very conscientious about COVID protocols,” she says. The comfortable surroundings afforded Megan not only a place to rest after hours of working on her feet, but also a remote office of sorts where she continued the mortgage work.
“My poor husband said, ‘What did you sign up for?’ and I said, ‘You said to do it!’ ” she recalls. Being away from home was hard, but all the work made time pass quickly. Nearby family — Megan is a Colleyville native, and Michael’s family lives in East Texas — helped out as needed.
On the “Holiday Baking Championship,” Megan started strong with a wreath-shaped chocolate orange quick bread, using orange zest, candied orange and chocolate chips. As she progressed through each round, her work impressed the judges, and she survived the weekly eliminations. Fortunately, an easy pregnancy had her feeling good as she found herself among the four finalists. Judges loved her holiday tree fashioned from almond macarons with fillings of fig mascarpone, hazelnut liqueur and orange curd. In the end, she and two other finalists — all professionals — were defeated by a home baker. Still, the experience bonded the competitors, all of whom remain close.
“We have a group chat and talk weekly, if not daily,” she says of her fellow competitors.
“Every chance we got during the show, we would just laugh together,” says Lorenzo Delgado, a Miami hotel pastry chef and a fellow finalist. “But she did not come to play — Megan was fierce, strong and knew exactly what she wanted to execute when the clock was ticking. I was truly amazed. And still her spirit is always happy, and I’m happy to call her my friend.”
At her Grapevine bakery, Megan aims to please her customers with artfully detailed wedding cakes and ornately sculptured baked goods. Grooms cakes made to look like stadiums are popular. And even odd requests are accommodated, such as a firefighter holding a Texas flag while riding a dinosaur. Whatever the ask, she’s up to the job. She admits that she is partial to the frilly ones.
“I love pretty cakes,” she says. “And if it calls for plenty of gum paste flowers, even better.”
Though COVID has affected her wedding business, she has been busy with superhero, “Star Wars” and Disney-themed birthday cakes. Everyday treats bring in steady traffic, too: Legacy’s assortment of macarons includes German chocolate, caramel, almond, chocolate-peppermint, Grand Marnier and the especially popular Chambord. Her cupcakes are piled high with frosting; flavors include wedding cake, red velvet, cinnamon roll, cookies and cream and salted caramel.
Baby number three arrived a few days before the “Holiday Baking Championship” began airing in November, just as Megan and family eased back into the swing of things. Passionate about fitness, she and Michael carve out hours in the early morning or late afternoon to coach at CrossFit DFW, a favorite outlet they’ve enjoyed together since they both earned their certifications nine years ago.
“We absolutely love the CrossFit community and investing our time with everyone there, helping others grow in their love for fitness,” Megan says. “And it’s definitely a way to spend more time together.”
The two look forward to traveling again, as the family loves scuba diving in the Caribbean and skiing at Park City, Utah, where their two older children
learned how to ski before their second birthdays.
Meanwhile, goals include expanding the bakery and perhaps adding a larger kitchen in a second space. Gluten-free requests continue to grow, and there’s a never-ending demand for things customers can make at home with their kids.
“We’ll continue the COVID shuffle, and I’d like to get into video classes, too,” she says. “The main thing is to make my employees’ lives as normal and happy as possible. Our goal at the shop this past year was to spend more time with family, and we want to keep doing that, too.”
Loves and Likes
Family meals “We eat pretty lean, and we’re trying to instill the importance of healthy food choices in our kids. I like recipes that are fresh and flavorful, so we grill a lot and use the Crock-Pot, too.”
Sweets “Macarons are so light; you don’t feel heavy after eating those. But we love desserts, like pecan cobbler. And my husband loves a lemon pie with Italian meringue.”
Inspirations “YouTube can be your best friend — the cooking tutorials are really good. For me, videos are better than books.”
Baking icons “Bronwen Weber is super inspiring to me; I like that she’s so fun, too, because this work is supposed to be fun. I also love [Food Network’s] Duff Goldman — he’s also a fun person, and very kind and humble.”