Personal Touches Even a Banquet Can Appreciate

Father of five enjoys cooking for large groups

Jeremy Edwards wants you to try the Gypsy Soup.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

When he’s not spending time with his kids, Jeremy Edwards is most likely preparing fresh meals in the kitchen at Old Orchard Tavern, the house restaurant of Cascades Mountain Resort in Henderson County. “I heard about the remodel of the resort through the news and drove over here one day to check it out,” reveals Edwards, who’s now the executive chef: “I’ve been here since they opened.” Previously, Edwards cheffed at The Purple Onion in Saluda, where he became intrigued by cooking with fresh, local foods. Using his extensive knowledge of garden-fresh, seasonal ingredients, he structures his kitchen so that the options for cuisine are manifold.

You grew up in restaurant culture …

I didn’t go to culinary school, but when I was 14 years old, I followed my brother into the restaurant business. He was working at a local fish camp in Asheville. I thought he was a badass chef back in the day, so I got a job there as a dishwasher, and when the cooks would go out back for their breaks, I would go in the kitchen and relieve them. … My brother actually got out of the business and went into aviation, but I decided to stay.

What happened next?

It’s been sort of like an incline. I moved on to manage Sagebrush [Steakhouse] and Shoney’s next. I got experience with the corporate side of things there. I worked at Stone Soup in Landrum, SC, and later, The Purple Onion, for nine years. I learned a good bit about creativity at Stone Soup and The Purple Onion. … I went from using pre-bagged soups and not getting to do anything really exciting with the food to creating my own soups — using a mixture of different herbs and spices to create unique flavors.

What’s a good autumn soup?

My personal favorite is our “Gypsy Soup.” It has roasted butternuts, sweet potatoes, chickpea, turmeric, paprika, and a touch of cinnamon.

How do you tailor your cooking to the Old Orchard specifically?

I always try to inspire menu items with apples [because of “orchard”]. I’ll make a bone-in pork chop with apple flavoring and apple fennel slaw. … Our menu right now has a fig and gorgonzola stuffed, cast -iron-seared 10-ounce bone-in pork chop included on it. … We do a breakfast buffet every day for the hotel guests, but we also host a lot of wedding receptions, banquets, and sports-related receptions, so I design the menu for those, [too]. … We’ll offer items like spice-rubbed salmon with smoked paprika, or pork and beef tenderloins. We also do a holiday menu with roasted turkey and ham and a Surf ’n Turf menu that has cedar-plank-smoked salmon and fresh shrimp on it. The banquets are what I enjoy most … if you make a wedding group happy, you’ve done something pretty special. 

Do you like to prepare fresh foods at home, too?

I have a bunch of children — a 4-year-old, 13-year-old twin boys, and two daughters, 25 and 21 years old. When we all get together, we have really big meals. I like to use the grill a lot at home, so I tend to cook roasted root vegetables. My kids love that for some reason. I also make hot sauces, especially with it being pepper season right now, and give the sauces out to my friends. They’re like, “It’s so hot!” But I’m like, “It’s good! The flavor is what matters!”

Old Orchard Tavern at Cascades Mountain Resort, 201 Sugarloaf Road, #1, Hendersonville. The restaurant is open 4-9pm Tuesday, 11am-9pm Wednesday and Thursday, 11am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 11am-8pm for brunch on Sunday. For more information, visit 828-595-8157.

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