Shredding way more than cheese, Chef Jason Williams talks cooking for the pros, and drops a winter-ready recipe.
Eating at restaurants in resort towns all the time can get pricey, so it’s always nice to have a buddy that can cook. It is even nicer when that buddy is a professionally trained chef. Cue up Jason Williams, a talented chef that hails from the East Coast and has been cooking for crews on winter trips around the world for the past decade. I first met Jason a few years back in Aspen, when I walked into a kitchen and snuck some potatoes that were sitting on the counter. I thought I got away scot-free, but Brock Crouch caught me and said, “Dude, try his bread.” I did, and if I had to pick between having that bread for sandwiches for the rest of my life or strapping in to a snowboard ever again, I would probably still pick snowboarding, but I have to tell you, it would be close. But back to Jason. Not only can he cook, he can rip! Check Blatt’s photo below for proof. From late night meals for riders in Aspen during X Games to strike missions to Japan, Jason has cooked (and ridden) just about everywhere. While he wraps up his restaurant season up in Maine at The Well at Jordan’s Farm and prepares for another winter on the road, we hit him with a few questions to get a bit of his backstory, as well as a recipe that’s perfect to dig into after a day on hill. Enjoy. – Mark Clavin
What came first, cooking or snowboarding?
Snowboarding came first. Me, my father, and my brother all got boards for Christmas in 1986 or ‘87. We started hiking the golf courses in the area that day and never looked back.
And how did you get your start in cooking?
I got interested in food and culinary arts as a career through a high school vocational program. I really liked how endless the learning potential was and how easy it would be to find a job, since everyone eats. It was during the time when food was exploding in this country, thanks to the Food Network, so it all seemed exciting.
What was it like going to school at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)?
It opened up a lot of doors for me. It’s a great school to be from when looking for work afterwards.
Do they call graduates “agents?”
No, but they totally should.
Learn any secret recipes?
Of course, but that’s all I can say.
You moved out to Tahoe after school. How was the blend of riding and cooking there?
It was a great period in my life. We had a good group of friends that would ride all day, work hard all evening, and party even harder all night.
What restaurants did you work for?
In Tahoe I worked at Jake’s on the Lake; Glissandi, which was a fine dining restaurant in the Resort at Squaw Creek; and Lahontan, the private golf club by Northstar.
Any recommendations to eat at in Tahoe now?
I like Christy Hill or PlumpJack’s for a nice dinner. Fire Sign is always good for breakfast.
In your opinion, what is the best ski town for food?
Tough one. Aspen has some pretty great spots, but Chamonix probably has my fondest food memories.
What about other ski towns? Have a few favorite restaurants you would suggest?
Yeah, the fondue spot in Tremblant. Giuseppe’s in Zermatt. Alpine Rose in Vail. Matsu in Aspen. Teton Thai in Jackson. Anything in Japan (the gas stations have decent food). There are so many more.
And then how did you get involved in traveling and cooking for some of the biggest riders in our space?
I happened to be at a video shoot for Forum that took place at my home mountain in New Hampshire. They brought in outside catering for it and the riders were stoked to have something to eat, but it looked like a bunch of steam table-style Sysco food and I knew they deserved better. So, I said something to the producer/team manager and my longtime friend, Bryan Knox, that I thought I could do better. The next season he was promoted to Burton and brought me out to cook for the team for X Games in 2011. I did everything I could to make sure they would ask for me to come back, and for the most part they have every year since.
Describe your winter season.
We close the restaurant mid-October, so I usually have some time in November to reset and get ready for the snow. First project with Burton is usually X Games, unless they do a catalog shoot or something in December. Then maybe Dew Tour or definitely the US Open, followed by whatever else anyone needs food service for. I’m usually involved in Peace Park with Danny [Davis] and Mountain Dew and Red Bull Recharged events with Ben [Ferguson]. This year I was involved in Natural Selection, as well. That was a fun one.
Best Airbnb kitchen you have ever cooked in?
We had an old b&b in Aspen one time, The Little Red House, that had a commercial kitchen in it, which made things way easier. But the places we get for the Open are pretty solid, too.
Is your carry-on full of kitchen knives and spices?
Definitely knives, and usually some larger equipment that most Airbnbs wouldn’t stock that makes cooking for twenty to forty people more manageable.
How do you plan for a week cooking for a house full of snowboarders?
I honestly don’t. Each town is different and what’s available to me varies. So, I try to just arrive a day early and see what looks good and go from there. I definitely have some staple things that I know I can usually pull off successfully.
What do you do in the off-season?
The snowboard off-season is when the restaurant starts up. So late May through mid-October, you can find me at The Well.
Snowboarders watch snow edits, do you watch cooking shows?
I used to, but then they all turned into competition shows and lost the appeal to me. I wish they would bring back shows like Great Chefs, Great Cities. Those got me excited to cook and to travel.
Who is the pickiest rider you have ever made a meal for?
Probably Anna Gasser. She knows what she likes and I try to deliver.
Do you take some of the responsibility if the rider you are feeding goes out and wins gold?
I’d say it’s about 50% what I make for breakfast and 50% talent and dedication that earns them the medals. Just kidding. I don’t. But I can usually take a good guess who’s going to do well by where their head is at during breakfast.
Favorite contest week you cook at?
This past year would have to be Natural Selection. It snowed so much during the down days and it was a great crew to be with, just freeriding around Jackson Hole.
Do any riders have a favorite meal you cook for them?
Usually any fish dishes I prepare go over pretty well with most of them. People get pretty hyped for schnitzel night usually as well. All the athletes, photographers, filmers, and team managers are on the road so much during the winter I think they all just appreciate fresh baked bread and a home-cooked meal, really. Restaurants get old if you’re constantly trying to herd people or make reservations, especially when you’re just trying to focus on doing your job.
Do you have a favorite rider to cook for?
Danny [Davis] and Mark [McMorris] are always so kind and appreciative, and always down to lend a hand in the kitchen doing dishes or helping out, in general. I have a lot of respect for them for that and it’s good mentoring for the younger kids just coming up.
What about your daughter? Would you be happier to see her follow your footsteps into the kitchen or onto the hill?
Either, as long as she’s happy.
Best snow trip you have been on and/or cooked on?
Best snow trip I’ve been on would be Japan a few years back, or a Baldface trip I did with the Joy movie crew. My favorite winter trip I’ve cooked on would be either the Peace Park years at Targhee, or a catalog shoot I did for Burton in Fernie, BC.
What is a go-to easy meal while on a ski trip? Any chance you want to share the recipe?
When I’m in Maine, the closest mountain is still an hour-and-a-half drive away, so I’ll often prepare a crockpot dish the night before, so I just have to remember to start it in the morning. Then when I get back, I have something hot and satisfying ready to go, without much additional effort. But if I’m not prepared in advance, a lot of times I’ll stop at the cheese shop and pick up fondue supplies (cheese, charcuterie, veggies, and bread) because it’s quick to make and satisfying on those cold New England winter nights.
Super Easy Crock Pot Recipe for Two
-1 lb beef, pork, chicken, or tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (cheaper cuts are perfect for this)
-2 carrots, large dice
-1 onion, large dice
-can of San Marzano tomatoes
-some mushrooms, halved
-any stock or water
-some aromatics (ex. bay leaf, thyme)
-Kosher salt, pepper (Chile flakes if you like a little spice)
-potatoes or rice
– Season with salt and pepper, then dust your tofu or meat in a little flour. Brown the pieces in a little canola oil on the stove in a sauté pan and then transfer to crockpot.
– Once your protein has been browned and transferred, you can add the veggies to the sauté pan and continue cooking over medium heat to give them a little color. Then that can go into the crock, as well.
– Add your tomatoes, aromatics, small potatoes (halved or quartered Yukons or reds are great), if using, and cover the whole thing with stock, about an inch over the ingredients. You can cook immediately or refrigerate overnight from here, then in the morning you just need to flip on the crock pot to medium-high for six-ish hours and grab a nice loaf of bread on the way home.