A Former Sous Chef Takes the Lead at a Popular Fort Worth Eatery ... and Sees a Familiar Face

A chat with Bria Downey in her new role as executive chef at Clay Pigeon.

After a tour of duty working alongside the likes of Chef David McMillan at the Meddlesome Moth in Dallas and opening another Shannon Wynne establishment, Bird Café, as pastry chef, Bria Downey has broken out of the mold. Downey worked as sous-chef for the first year of Piattello Italian Kitchen before recently being tapped by Marcus Paslay to lead the kitchen at Clay Pigeon, where her twin sister, Tatiana, works behind the bar. We chatted with the chef as she prepped for her starring role.

Q. Your Instagram handle is @bakebriabake, and I know you began as a wildly creative pastry chef. Is pastry still your first love?
A. Pastry is still my favorite thing. It’s the finishing touch on a fine meal — the note to leave on. I love to watch people’s eyes light up when they are presented with a dessert. It’s something so easily overlooked, but special occasions are always celebrated with sweets. I am making a few changes to the dessert menu, and I hope our customers will enjoy them.

Q. What’s it like working with your twin sister? Do you have one of those telepathic twin relationships where communication can be nonverbal?
A. We do think alike. We also feed on each other’s energy and get really amped up. Sometimes it’s like surround sound. Some of our regulars have been surprised to see both of us. It’s like seeing double.

Q. What’s your favorite drink that Tatiana makes?
A. She just added a new drink that I love. We don’t have a name for it yet, but it is a house-made pistachio orgeat syrup, muddled cucumber and lime with a splash of Topo Chico.

Q. You are a female chef in a lead role. In the wake of the #metoo movement, how do you set the tone in your kitchen?
A. Throughout my career, I’ve never felt subjugated. We have a job to do. I treat my kitchen the same way I have always been treated and plan to lead by example.

Q. What’s the last thing you cooked at home?
A. I got a bone-in ribeye at Central Market and served it with oven-roasted squash and asparagus, and a snap pea gremolata, with orange zest and radishes.

Q. What’s it like working for Chef Paslay?
A. This is the first time I have worked for a chef/owner. He is obsessed with his All Clad pans, which are also really heavy. When I asked him why he prefers them, he said, “I can taste the difference!” That’s a good example of how he does things the chef way. He buys quality, long-lasting appliances and tools.
He is also a family man, himself, and understands how hard it is to balance, and when you need time off. He understands that if you are happy at home, you’ll be happy at work.