Precision preparation – with a pinch of grandmotherly love for good measure
Story by B.C. Rausch + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck
Have you ever met a pastry chef who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? Or who studied engineering in college?
Meet Iain Jones, executive pastry chef at The Sea Pines Resort.
He’s admittedly analytical, methodical and organized, measuring everything in grams (and he is very precise!). But he also says there is “no better smell than the scent of a homemade bread baking in the oven. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water.”
His path from engineer to executive pastry chef at one of the south’s premier luxury resorts wasn’t direct, as you might imagine. During college he switched majors from engineering to fiber optics and quickly found a job. But after 9/11 his position was eliminated.
During his lay off, while having lunch with his mother at a bakery in his hometown of Asheville, she “volunteered” him for a job there. He started at the bottom, washing dishes, working overnight, making breads and learning everything he could. From there he made stops at the Biltmore Estates, The Inn at Biltmore and Grove Park Inn in Asheville, where he met Executive Chef Duane Fernandes and started focusing on higher-end preparations. Another mentor was Chef Kelly Fields, whom he met at The Inn at Biltmore. Fields was recipient of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Pastry Chef Award.
On a whim, he applied for a position at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, the longest-tenured Forbes 5 Star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the world. “I wasn’t really expecting to hear anything, but surprisingly after several months I got a call and was asked to come in and prepare a tasting menu for the selection committee.”
He won them over with an opera torte (thin layers of sponge cake with a coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache), sachertorte (Austrian chocolate cake) and a strawberry and almond dessert. While at The Inn at Little Washington, Iain was part of the team that received a 3-star Michelin rating, one of only 14 given in the entire U.S.
After several years at the Inn, The Sea Pines Resort called with an opportunity and scope of position too good to pass up. Since arriving in January, Iain has worked on the menu planning and grand opening of the wildly popular Quarterdeck, followed by revising the dessert menus for Links, Coast, Fraser’s Tavern Harbour Town Bakery & Café, catering and special events.
“Each restaurant needs to be distinctive, and the breads, pastries and desserts need to reflect the identity of each menu,” he said. “Here in the South, grandma puts love into her food. At Sea Pines we want to do the same for our guests, making their dining experiences memorable by offering something they wouldn’t find anywhere else, and, of course, delicious.”
Next up for Iain are the coming holidays and the 2023 RBC Heritage. He’s planning a huge bread display for Thanksgiving, along with bourbon pecan, pumpkin and apple pies and pumpkin cheesecake.
He’s also looking more closely at sustainability. “Knowing where your products are coming from is key. We’re also producing healthier options, like removing gluten where possible or sourcing vegan milk chocolate.”
Tips & quips
- Iain prefers Valrhona Chocolate (France) or chocolate products from Cacao Barry.
- His favorite magazine is So Good, a semi-annual magazine of haute patisserie. It’s absolutely mouthwatering!
- Add ginger to pumpkin dessert recipes as a “flavor brightener.”
- Chef Patrick O’Connell always told him to make a recipe three times just the way it was written before making any adjustments. Remember that!
- Never try to tweak a baking recipe without first understanding the science behind the ingredients and the preparation steps.
- Make sure to find a balance. Use acid and salt to round out a recipe and to develop the flavor profile.
The Sea Pines Resort
Stove Top Milk Chocolate Pot de Crème
Ingredients in grams
Milk chocolate – 170g
Yolks – 75g (approximately 1.5 eggs)
Sugar – 16g
Salt – 1g
Heavy cream – 146g
Half and half – 85g
Water – 7g
Vanilla extract – 7g (1 teaspoon)
Directions  Scald cream, half and half, water, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a heavy bottom pot.  While whisking, slowly pour some of the cream mixture into the egg yolks to temper the mixture.  Return the yolk and cream mixture back to the pot and cook to approximately 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  Strain through a chinois over chocolate and then blend with stick blender.  Pour 2 ounces into the bottom of a Verrine Glass. Place in refrigerator and allow to set.  Pipe a thin layer of crème fraiche, place in refrigerator and allow to set.  Pour last 2 ounces of pot de crème on top. Allow to set and garnish.
The Sea Pines Resort
Key Lime Cheesecake
This no-bake, airy cheesecake recipe has been a hit at Quarterdeck and is simple to try at home.
Ingredients in grams (Crust)
Graham cracker crumbs – 100g
Butter (melted) – 113g
Sugar – 50g
Directions  Stir together the ingredients, which should hold shape when pressed together.  Line bottom of springform pan with parchment. Pack layer of crust.  Bake at 325 degrees for 5 minutes.
Ingredients in grams (Cheesecake)
Key lime juice – 92g
Gelatin – 4 sheets of gelatin (or 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder)
Cream #1 – 119g
Cream #2 – 476g
White chocolate – 283g
Cream cheese – 680g
Sugar – 200g
Zest of 1 lime
Directions  Bloom gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.  Melt together cream #1 and white chocolate in a double boiler.  Combine cream cheese, lime zest, and sugar in mixer with paddle attachment. Beat until smooth.  Add gelatin and key lime juice to melted chocolate and emulsify.  Add chocolate mixture into cream cheese.  Strain through chinois into large bowl.  Whip cream #2 to medium peak.  Fold into cream cheese mixture and pour into springform pan.  Place in freezer until set. Remove from freezer and cut with a knife dipped in hot water while still partially frozen.