Industry Profile: Part 2 – Executive Chef Josh Drage of the Ranch at Rock Creek

It’s been a year like no other in the hospitality industry. So what surprised you and what gives you confidence going forward?

“I just feel like the American West is a good place where people feel safe now. We have so much quality outdoor space and endless options for amazing adventures in all seasons. That translated well into what we do as an experiential guest ranch. People have always been curious and attracted to this lifestyle, but this year we learned they also enjoy the added sense of security, and that really brought a whole new level of excitement around our guest community.

I was pleasantly surprised by the resilience of our team. We’ve had some big hurdles unlike any before, and they really rose to the occasion. My team always comes through, but even I had questions about how things would play out because there were so many unknowns. I always felt like they could handle any challenge and this year they proved it.

Great team members, are always in high demand, what qualities and skill sets do you look for?

“#1, I love people who understand the benefits of working hard and all the good things come from putting in the time. That is where all of hospitality is difficult. It takes a lot to put together these experiences. They do not happen on their own. So, when you have the right personality that is open to working hard, you can really start to mold them. Talent is the other thing I look for. Sometimes I give people a wider birth if they’re talented because I value that so much in the front of the house or the back of the house.  It takes a lot of discipline, and people do not excel on natural talent alone, but whenever a person can put together hard work and talent, it’s a combo impossible to beat.  Also, it’s just an attitude that’s fun on an F&B team, you know what I mean? You can train people to do anything but sometimes that trajectory is just a little bit slower and they aren’t naturally wired for it.”

You’ve spent your entire career in the hospitality business, who were your role models and what inspires you?

“When I first got in the hospitality and the restaurant biz, I was in college and I was like, “Oh, this is everything… This is cool!” I find myself gravitating towards people that are invested in the process, and have their own reasons why. In other words, they aren’t asking “why they do what they do”, they already know. Those are the kind of people I look up to. That way I know I can broaden my own knowledge because when I look across the counter I trust I will learn something from my colleague.”

We know you spend a lot of time at work, but tell us a little bit about your family and how you like to recharge and have fun.

“My wife and two kids are everything to me. We have a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, and raising them together is totally awesome. It sounds funny, but if I had known what I know now, I would have started my family sooner in life.

Chef’s definitely spend a lot of time at work, so what you like to do needs to be right there within easy striking distance, or the fact of the matter is you’re not going to do it. I love the outdoors. I love the challenges that the outdoors present. You know, as I get older, the challenges that I took for granted now are the challenges that keep me going.  I find that I need it and I need the challenge of running a river, skiing, or climbing a mountain or something like that because I’m not inspired at work if I’m not doing those things.”

Thank you Chef, It’s been fantastic catching up with you and getting your perspective on the industry. We look forward to seeing all the great things you are sure to “make happen” in the future!” 

Photo Courtesy of Lynn Donaldson