Devin Jones: “Pastry just made sense to me. I enjoy it and I like the challenge of it.”

The Staff Canteen

Devin Jones is the head pastry chef at The Grand Hotel in York. He joined the team in 2022 after moving from South Africa and says for him, ‘pastry just clicked.’ In his current role he oversees ‘anything that has to do with sugar or butter’ – a demanding job as he, along with his team is catering for every hotel guest in The Rise restaurant, the 1906 Bar plus the events and meeting space and in-room dining.

“There’s a lot of pastry to go around!” laughed Devin. “There’s a lot going on day to day. We handle anything the guests need from surprise cakes to birthday cakes as well as normal service.

“In peak season we can do up to a 100 easily on a weekend for afternoon tea and most nights we do 80 in The Rise and at the same time we can be doing an event dinner – so it can get very busy.”

The Grand used to be the headquarters for the railway up in the north, so it really has a lot of character, there’s a lot of history in this building and it's quite an iconic building in York. Devin explained that in early 2000 it was converted into a hotel and said: “Over the years we've basically been creating a bit of a buzz about The Grand because it is the only five star hotel in York.”

On the menu

The team at The Grand are catering for hundreds of people every day and he says when you come up with the menu, you have to create an offering for everyone.

Devin Jones The Grand York

“Everyone has to get a little bit of something – especially when you are designing an afternoon tea menu, it’s just one stand of food so you have to give someone their chocolate, something which is less sweet than the others, something with a tang or a zing to it, to keep people happy and interested.”

He added: “For me it’s about looking at the season we are in and thinking about whether it’s warm or cold. I like to then break the key elements down that I want to use and then think about what I can do with them such as can I make an ice cream with this ingredient, what will work hot, what can I do with a texture.

“That’s the fun part, it’s one of the things I enjoy most is when you are coming up with new dishes and you get to play around.”

Devin says he doesn’t have signature dishes, but he believes all pastry chefs have three or four flavours which they never hide away from using on their menus.

“I went through a stage where I just used miso on everything – to the point where I had to stop myself! But I also love passion fruit, it always features somewhere. And I always have to have an orange or a lemon or a citrus.

“And there will always be something salty or sour on the plate. Balance is important and I always try to make sure nothing is overly sweet.”

The right team is key

Being able to deliver the best desserts on such a huge scale, Devin says wouldn’t be possible without his team.

“Having the right people is key. I’m only one person and one person can’t do everything on their own,” he said.

Currently there are 4 in the pastry team including himself and they are still quite a new team. Devin says, ‘it’s incredibly important to have the right people with you’.

Devin Jones The Grand York

“They need to buy in to the idea that hospitality is a difficult industry, but it is a choice that we make going in to it. There’ a reason why we are here and it’s not for the money or the long hours it’s because something in us wants to make other people happy.

“That’s the core part of it all. And I love coming in to work with people who are here to achieve the same things as I am here to achieve. Without the right team it’s impossible to do the job.”

Learn the basics and you can work anywhere

Devin spent five years at The Silo Hotel in Cape Town before moving to the UK. He didn’t know he wanted to be a chef, his mum made the suggestion as he liked to cook, so he enrolled in cookery school.

“Two or three weeks in I realised I’d found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he explained. “It was a very surreal moment to figure that out so early on.

“My first job, I hated it. I had to make bread and souffles – two of the hardest things to do. But I watched my exec pastry chef, as well as another chef in the small service section for the fine dining restaurant – which did numbers, over a 100 – and the desserts were really complicated.

Devin Jones The Grand York

“The way they moved around each other to do everything, I remember standing back thinking, ‘god if I have half that talent, I’ll be really happy’.”

From that moment pastry stuck for Devin. He enjoyed the structure and the order, he says, ‘planning is paramount’ and multitasking.

“Pastry just made sense to me. I enjoy it and I like the challenge of it.”

Now 18 months into his role at The Grand, he admits his style has changed as what customers want in the UK is different to those in Cape Town.

He said: “It has influenced my style for sure – you have to put the ego in the pocket and understand the customer wants what they want. I have had to shift my mindset to what the UK market likes.

“You have to identify the flavours guests expect, and then that’s the playground you can play in. It’s all very well bringing your flare with you, but at the end of the day the customer is king. Stuff like a sticky toffee pudding, you can’t play with it too much before you annoy someone!”

He added: “Thankfully with kitchens, they all have the same things in them wherever in the world you go. So, you can just get stuck in, with the team, learn how they work, and you find your place.

“You find your rhythm.”

Devin Jones The Grand York


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Editor 1st April 2024

Devin Jones: “Pastry just made sense to me. I enjoy it and I like the challenge of it.”