img_4891Salamander Resort & Spa has one of the finest pastry chefs in the world, Jason Reaves. The Purcellville resident has been with Salamander since its opening and his resume continues to get sweeter and sweeter.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, with a degree specializing in baking and pastry, he gained experience at several resorts, later earning the title of pastry chef while aboard Norwegian Cruise ships on the high seas. Away too long, Jason’s mother persuaded him to find work in the area. “She used the newspaper clippings (about the building of the resort) to try and pull me back from Hawaii,” Jason recalled, and it worked.

chrisweberstudios-5079With Jason’s culinary skills and knowledge, the pastry operations at Market Salamander expanded quickly as he managed everything from supplies and equipment to creating the menus of pastries and unique cakes for Salamander’s guests as well as for local restaurants, weddings and civic events.

His reputation for elaborate wedding cakes quickly grew beyond Middleburg. On one occasion, a local couple flew Jason and his crew to Reno for their son’s wedding. “We didn’t decorate until I got there, so I had all the cakes in cake pans, and we layered it in boxes all wrapped up and then we checked it with luggage. We’ve decorated down in Williamsburg, we’ve gone to Philadelphia, to Boston. Reno’s about the farthest away.”

chrisweberstudios-5085In 2011, Jason and his assistant Terry Tuttle competed in the “Food Network Challenge”, filmed in Denver. The theme was “Lego Cakes”. After eight hours, a three-and-a-half-foot high LEGO city including helicopter and office tower, large enough to serve 400, was made from butter cream and fondant frosting, and decorated with melting chocolate. The creation earned Jason and Terry the $10,000 first prize for their artistry.

chrisweberstudios-5028The victory didn’t end there. After winning the grand prize while the cameras were still rolling, Jason turned to his girlfriend Nicole to propose marriage. She said, “yes” and the two were married a few weeks later at Salamander.

Every pastry chef has a rare, humbling moment of disaster. In the Food Network Challenge Extreme Amusement Park Cakes, Jason came in “whatever last was”. Chuckling, “I can’t remember if it was three teams or four teams but whatever it was we were the last ones.” While Jason’s cake was an incredible work of art, unfortunately the roller coaster failed to operate in the challenge, eliminating him from the competition. Undeterred, he competed in a third Food Network Challenge “King of Cones”, again winning the $10,000 prize. Using the prize money, the newlyweds spent a luxurious vacation in Italy.

chrisweberstudios-4914As of this writing, Jason is competing again on the Food Network Challenge as the cake artist in a team of three called the “Crypt Cookers” in the show “Halloween Wars.” “This show is a little bit different. You start with six teams and every week a team gets eliminated…the finale is at the end of October (29).” With a prize of $50,000 to the winning team, it’s going to be a scary night!

Out of the limelight, Jason is passionate about contributing back to the community. His endeavors include cooking classes, at Harriman’s Cooking Studio at Salamander, you can find him demonstrating and teaching in an interactive class featuring seasonal menu offerings. A master class right here at Salamander, nothing sweeter!

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I started in photography in 1977 when I bought a used "Nikkomat" from our Postman who sidelined as a wedding photographer. I went with him as his apprentice to weddings and events and helped with set up, etc and learned about shooting, perspectives, angles, even setting up my own darkroom in my bedroom and developing my own B&W 35mm Prints. But I actually started before that, back before I even had my first camera. At 16 I studied painting in Arcylics under a famous artist named James Michael Triggs, who like his father before him painted magazine covers for such famous magazines as Gun Digest, Flying, etc. Already being a skilled sketch artist I picked up painting quickly, learning about lighting, shadows, color, perspective, etc. This no doubt translated into my photography and comes out in the art I express through the lens of my camera. I began studying Korean Karate in 1977 at the Jhoon Rhee Schools of Tae Kwon Do in Hyattsville Md studying under Jeff Smith and Steve McGill. I went on to try my hand at other styles including Hung Gar Kung Fu and Aikido as well as Boxing at the YMCA. I went on to become a highly experienced Rock Climber, becoming not only a skilled technical climber but also a paid instructor and guide for "S.P.L.O.R.E". Additionally I lifted weights and did other forms of cross training. Being skilled in heights, safety, ropes, knots and rigging I can photograph were other less physically adept photographers may not be able to venture. I'm available for both private and commercial shoots and specialize in equestrian photography but am also a skilled portrait artist and crowd candids for event coverage. I can be reached at chris@chrisweberstudios.com.