Meet The Pimentologist
Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton has an expert on pimento cheese on staff to ensure the Southern staple is always available for guests.
When the Pimentologist at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta prepares pimento cheese for hotel guests, the conversation always turns to the rich culinary heritage of the South. It’s a familiar subject for Brian Jones, chef de cuisine of Atlanta Grill and chief Pimentologist at the hotel. Jones’ passion for Southern cooking began as a child working alongside his aunts in the family garden in nearby Chamblee, Georgia.
“Pimento cheese is called the pâté of the South because it’s been packed in lunch boxes and served at teas and luncheons, weddings and wakes for decades,” says Chef Jones. “It’s great fun to introduce guests to this genuine Southern staple.”
The Ritz’s trademark Pimentologist ritual is popular among hotel guests, many of whom make it a point to gather in the lobby on Tuesday or Friday between 5 and 6:30 p.m. for a complimentary tasting with crackers or crudité. Generations of Southerners have made pimento cheese, so many versions exist, but Chef Jones recommends his basic recipe of three simple ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese, a good mayonnaise and charred red peppers.
“You don’t need to make your own mayonnaise,” advises Chef Jones. “Just buy a good, Southern-styled mayo, but do not use pimentos from a jar.”
Guests at The Ritz can also find the following Pimentologist food and drink pairings:
- Chopped Salad with Crispy Pimento Cheese Fritter paired with 2012 Wolf Mountain Plenitude, Dahlonega, Georgia
- Monte Cristo with Pimento Cheese, Black Forest Ham and Georgia Mayhaw Jelly paired with 2012 Yves Cuilleron Sybel, Rosè of Syrah, VdP de Collines Rhodanienes, Rhone Valley, France
- Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Heirloom Tomatoes paired with Sweet Georgia Brown, Sweetwater Brewery, Atlanta, Georgia
- Warm Pecan Dusted Pimento Cheese with Celery and Radishes paired with a Manhattan made with bourbon and sweet Vermouth, with a couple dashes of celery or rhubarb bitters
Chef Jones is also not limited to cheddar. His pimento cheese variations range from goat cheese with roasted hot chilies, local Jack cheese with roasted poblanos, smoked Gouda with green onion and roasted sweet peppers, white cheddar, crème fraiche, caramelized onion and Espelette peppers, and homemade buttermilk cheese, pecans and roasted red peppers.
Guests may also find pimento cheese on Chef Brian’s menu in Atlanta Grill in the hotel. Pimento Cheese Toast is an appetizer for sharing made by charring slices of baguette, spreading with pimento cheese, waving under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling, then topping with sliced green onions. A pimento cheese-stuffed celery stalk also garnishes the filet mignon.
Information and photos provided by Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.