When Chef Jess, as she’s affectionately known around the mountain, conceives of a delicious new confection for Spruce Peak, it’s like being in the presence of a brilliant artist, a mad scientist, a magician—or maybe a little of each. Quiet has always had what she calls “an artsy brain” (she plays several instruments and has dabbled in bands). She got her initial taste for baking as a high school student at nearby St. Johnsbury Academy, where she trained under a professional pastry chef. “I quickly realized I had a knack for it,” Quiet says. “I was drawn to the creative aspect of mixing different flavor profiles as well as the artistic presentation on the plate.”
After winning fourth place in a national pastry competition, she went on to study baking and pastry arts at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island. She worked at hotels in Boston, Florida, and Minnesota before landing back in Vermont, at SprucePeak. Last year, Quiet appeared in the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship. “There are endless possibilities to composing a dessert, and it is ever evolving—I love having free reign,” says Quiet, who describes her style as French pastry with a twist. “I take a classic dessert and add colors, splashes, and pops. I think of the plate as my palette.” So how exactly does she conjure up a new dish? “First, I consider what is fresh and in season in Vermont,” Quiet says. “For example, in the summer, wild strawberries from local farms are delicious.” She recalls delighting in the tiny but intensely flavorful wild strawberries that grew in the yard of her childhood home. Once she decides on her base ingredient, the wheels start turning. She ponders what flavors profiles play nice together, as well as what’s on point in the pastry world. As a member of the American Culinary Federation (a worldwide network of chefs, with whom she is also an instructor), she has her finger on the pulse of foodie culture. “Florals are trending right now, and violets pair well with strawberries,” Quiet says. “How can I meld these elements together and tell a story?” She explains that in order to successfully execute a plated dessert, you must include at least three of the following components: a base, such as cake; a filling, like mousse; crunch for texture (such as tulle or streusel); a frozen element like ice cream or sorbet; plus a garnish, such as chocolate (more on that in the sidebar). “These five things are essentially the 'bible' of a plated dessert,” Quiet says. With these as her guiding light, she settles on strawberry mousse with a strawberry-violet compote insert and gluten-free sponge cake, topped off with a violet-chiffon crumble for accent colors. “I gravitate to vibrant colors that pop,” Quiet says. “For crunch, I’ll add an oatmeal streusel and vanilla bean anglaise, which will contrast with the strawberry and blend with the violet.” And that’s not all: “I love height on a dessert and I’m a trained chocolatier, so for the finishing touch, I’d create pink stick curls made of Valrhona chocolate,” Quiet says. You can find this cheery summer medley on the menu at Alpine Hall. On the next page, Quiet walks us through how she comes up with some of her other mouth-watering seasonal desserts.
8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Food Network
- You have to drop everything. “After interviewing for a couple of months, I got a call that I was going to be on the show and had to fly out the very next week!” Quiet says.
- Everything is recorded. “There are more cameras than you can imagine, catching every single moment,” Quiet says. “All of America was watching, which was really nerve-wracking.”
- You can't visit the kitchen ahead of time. “I didn’t know where anything was,” Quiet says. “The ticking time clock was very real.”
- The gig is top secret. “I couldn’t tell anyone where I was or what I was doing,” Quiet says. “Aside from taping the show, I was in a hotel room alone all day, every day because of strict Covid rules.”
- It’s more competitive than you may think. “About 10,000 chefs applied
for the show and they only chose 12,” Quiet says
- You discover a lot about yourself. “I learned that I can come up with creative ideas on the fly and push myself under pressure,” Quiet says.
- Cooking will never be the same again. “The show changed the way I see pastry,” Quiet says. “I realized that I need to wow people by showcasing unique things.” Case in point: Shortly after her return, she created Spruce Peak Executive Chef Sean Blomgren’s birthday cake for the A Taste of New England event. He loves cheeseburgers and oysters, so she made him a cheeseburger-inspired cake, plus an ultra-realistic white chocolate oyster plate with “ice” made of gelatin
- She might go on the Food Network again. Some chefs featured in the Spring Baking Championship had appeared on the network in the past. “We will see what the future holds!” Quiet says.
Citrus Strawberry Entremets
I came up with the idea for this entremets during a Food Network challenge dubbed “love in the stars.” We had to invent a galaxy- themed dessert with a mirror glaze, which is a shiny cake glaze. An entremets is a layered cake built in a 10- inch round pan that you freeze, unmold, and then glaze while frozen. I used vanilla sponge with a layer of feulletine crunch. Feulletine is like the wafer in a KitKat: a wafer coated in milk chocolate to keep it crispy. Everything is blossoming in the springtime, so I was thinking bright flavors and colors. I created a layer of mousse made of yuzu, which is a summery citrus that pairs well with layers of strawberries and limoncello. I finished it off with a blueberry-passionfruit glaze, plus a cocoa butter splatter and white chocolate planets. When you cut into the cake you see beautiful layers that embody summer.
WhistlePig Whiskey Cake
The inspiration for this cake was the whiskey at Spruce Peak’s WhistlePig Pavilion—it’s a play off an old fashioned cocktail. I put citrus and Angostura bitters into the tuille, which is a super thin wafer cookie. I candied pecans using maple syrup and dotted the plate with splatters of citrus vanilla bean anglaise with orange zest. Chocolate curls top it off.
Here, I showcased local distillery Caledonia Spirits, which also makes raw honey that has a unique flavor. First, I made a honey mousse. Next, I used a smoking gun to infuse the mousse with a smoky flavor and piped it into a mold. In the meantime, I created an apple compote. I used a melon baller to ball apples, put them in a bag along with our local Spruce Peak IPA and orange juice, and compressed it with a Cryovac for 15 minutes until the apples got translucent and would literally melt in your mouth. I inserted the compote into the mousse. For the final touches, I swirled coffee cremeux on top and served it with a honey-torched merengue and a macaron.