Industry Profile: Executive Chef Josh Drage of the Ranch at Rock Creek

Thanks for joining us today Josh, could you tell us about the culinary program you’ve instituted for the ranch and also talk with us about your leadership style?

“Since we opened in 2010, I wanted our program to be inspired by, and emulate, a traditional working ranch in Montana. As a chef, I like to capture snapshots of what that must have been like from a seasonal perspective and weave those concepts into our guest experience all around the year. Our guests come for an all-inclusive high-end experience, and we prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for up to 100 every day in peak season. I like to orchestrate the ebb and flow between communal and private dining experiences and blend a nice combination of refined and down-to-earth highlights along the way.

As for my leadership style, I like my team to really practice the discipline of repetition. By doing that, the cooks engage in the process of creating menus together and making sure we’re building them all in the style of the Ranch at Rock Creek kitchen. The goal is to engage as professionals and come to better ideas. I always think we can have a better menu when all the cooks collaborate. We embrace a spirit of camaraderie and enjoy working together. That way if things aren’t going as planned for one of us, we can all take ownership in turning that around. Likewise when things are going good, it’s going good for everyone on the team and that’s way it should be. It gives us all room to live and breathe at work and also helps make the most of our free time. Most people come to work in Montana to take advantage of outdoor adventure experiences for sure. To be honest, that’s why I live here. In my kitchen, things turn out better when people are having fun inside and outside of the workplace. I also appreciate that the harder one works at being a chef, the better one becomes. This is a quality I respected in the chefs  I looked up to when I was just getting started, rather than trying to be “the best”, I just strive to get better at my craft every day and I encourage that in my team as well.” 

If you had to point to one aspect, what do you like most about your work?

“I enjoy the guests in the dining room. I got into the kitchen because I really like cooking. And when I cook, I cook for people. In one way or another, it always feels like I’m with family and friends. And I like that part of it, doing something nice for people I care about.”

Interest in travel to the American West is definitely hitting new heights. In your opinion, which elements resonate with guests the most and how long do you see that continuing?

“What I have seen in my life personally, and with our guests, is that people are valuing experiences more than ever. As things shift in society and people’s lives change, people want to spend more meaningful time in places like Montana. People are seeking authentic and more rewarding experiences all the time. I believe it is really going to be a long-term thing because the experiences people can have in a place like Montana aren’t going away, and this all goes back to core ideas of what we wanted to create when we built the Ranch at Rock Creek in the first place.”

All right, here is a fun one, with the holidays coming up, can you share a few of the wines one might see around your Thanksgiving table?

“I love it, our team was just talking about this, and holiday wines are a whole category I could think about for days… Right off the bat, I really like to serve Nebbiolos and Barolos, I’ve always loved those on special occasions and to me, they are the most-friendly food wines out there, especially if you are a fan of the old world. This is what people mean when they’re talking about food and wine coexisting. And realistically, when you’re drinking wine with a meal, you’re not really drinking. The combination of the wine and the food is how you eat a meal.

I’ve really fallen in love with Timorassos lately. It’s an awesome wine and it pairs naturally with our fall menus. There is a lot going in the flavor palette, but you don’t have to wonder why you like it… it’s crisp and delicious and just plain tastes good. On Thanksgiving Burgundy’s can be great, old-world pinots are really superb too. Uncork any of the above it should be a happy Thanksgiving!”