Inspired by local ingredients, renowned Chef Jake Schmidt brings out crisp flavors of fall
On a breezy afternoon at The Swag, visitors can sip from a cool craft beer from local brewery Hi-Wire while watching the culinary team sort a rainbow of fresh vegetables from local farms.
Not only is it a pleasant ambience, but the fresh produce also will be transformed into the artfully presented menu at the on-site fine dining restaurant. “Farm-to-table” isn’t just a trendy marketing term for the cuisine – it’s a way of life at The Swag.
The Swag offers guests a peaceful environment to rest, relax and rejuvenate, whether just enjoying an evening out or staying overnight on vacation. Located on a secluded mountaintop outside Waynesville, North Carolina, the resort offers a host of amenities including steam showers, spa treatments, guided outdoor activities, stunning vista views and of course the elevated food experience.
At the center of the culinary creations are Executive Chef Jake Schmidt and his team of culinarians. Experienced and sophisticated with more than 20 years of experience, Schmidt has embraced the opportunity to work with what nature provides at The Swag, which is newly owned by Annie and David Colquitt of Knoxville, Tennessee.
“It’s not about what I do for them,” Schmidt said. “It’s what we do for each other. They give me the ultimate freedom – it’s like a dream.”
Ingredients for meals are locally sourced, with Ivy Creek Family Farm in Barnardsville and Dennis Sutton, Iron Duff Farms and Christopher Farms from Waynesville supporting the resort throughout the season. Trips to the Saturday market in North Asheville provide fall specialties like foraged mushrooms, perfectly sweetened fruits and local cheeses. Fresh chard, lettuce, kale, carrots and beets will be used in both craft cocktails and savory dishes.
Brining is a Swag staple, and every Thursday brings such delights as slowly smoked pork belly that’s been traditionally prepared Asian Char Siu marinade or homemade pastrami edged with a proprietary seasoning blend and prepared over the course of two weeks.
The dinner menu is planned ahead for each week, offering fresh and hearty options alike as fall approaches. This week, diners delighted in courses such as an earthy Moroccan chickpea stew and an herbed pork tenderloin garnished with late season heirloom tomatoes.
Seasonal cooking starts with strategic discussions each year about what ingredients will be freshest based on the weather and input from suppliers. When planning menus, the team is inspired by everything from seasonal themes to raw ingredients on the table to flavors tasted halfway around the world.
“We want our guests to fully experience the flavor of everything this region has to offer, presented at its best,” Schmidt said. “And the recipes are always fresh and evolving. We put love in the details and add creative, modern twists to make diners stop and savor what’s on the plate.”
Prior to heading the team at The Swag, Schmidt led a fast-paced team of talented chefs and cooks as the Executive Chef at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Starting as the Chef de Cuisine at Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet, his work ethic and ability to learn and adapt shot him to the top in less than four years.
He also worked at the famous Signature Room at the 95th in Chicago. As the Executive Sous Chef under mentor Executive Chef Pat Sheerin, he led a team of five sous chefs and 50 cooks with more than $20 million in annual revenue from the restaurant.
While Schmidt enjoyed upholding the standards of exacting perfection demanded by both establishments, it wasn’t a pace he wanted long-term.
“Those experiences were invaluable, and without mentors pushing me to think past my boundaries in a high-pressure environment I wouldn’t be who I am,” Schmidt said. “Now, to be able to flex my creativity and work with such a tight-knit family at The Swag feels like the perfect culmination of that career.”
The restaurant is open seven days a week to day trip diners with a reservation and all overnight guests. Friday through Wednesday enjoy a four-course dinner with a choice of four entrees and three desserts. On Thursdays, the team offers a creative take on barbecued delicacies. Sunday features a well-appointed brunch held in the main dining room. Boxed picnics are available every day during the week for hiking trips, featuring creations such as a smoked beef and Muenster sandwich.
Until the end of September, mention the “Chef Jake” package when booking two or more nights and receive a complimentary spread of the chef’s favorite regional cheeses and artisanal charcuterie, paired with a bottle of wine. Ask for the special when making the reservation.
About The Swag
The Swag offers luxurious accommodations, allowing guests a peaceful environment where they can rest, relax and rejuvenate. Located on a secluded mountaintop just outside Waynesville, North Carolina, the inn is an ideal destination for romantic getaways, weddings, corporate retreats and much more. The 2.5-mile private drive leading to the inn climbs more than 1,000 feet. For more information, visit The Swag online.