Salisbury putting the finishing touches on another Mahogany masterpiece.

Photo by John F. Russell

Salisbury putting the finishing touches on another Mahogany masterpiece.

Steamboat Living: Cooking with Mahogany Ridge Chef Jason Salisbury

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Jason Salisbury remembers the humble and messy start to his cooking career.

“I started washing dishes at car diners as a teenager, scrubbing nasty eggs off plates one day a week,” he says in the dining room of Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill, where he has served as head chef for nine years. “That’s kind of where I started.”

After following a few ski and snowboard buddies to Steamboat in 1993, Salisbury quickly found his place in the kitchen. He’s come a long way since then and takes pride in admitting he never has attended culinary school. He is entirely self-taught.

Like many chefs in Steamboat Springs, Salisbury started early. Washing dishes. Busing tables. From the bottom to the top. Guiding Mahogany’s menu since its inception has been an honor, Salisbury says, adding that he picked up his passion for cooking from his mom while growing up in Salem, N.H. “She was a big influence,” he says. “She would look for new ideas in cooking magazines. She would put her own spin on things.”

With Salisbury in the kitchen, Mahogany has developed a largely Latin-inspired menu, sprinkled with more conventional fan favorites, including the pretzel with cheese, mustard and porter sauce.

“I never met a pretzel I didn’t like, but I’m considering packing up my bags and moving to Steamboat just to be closer to the twisted pretzel at Mahogany,” Houston’s SFA_TravelGirl wrote last year on Trip Adviser. (Salisbury prefers the duck and the spicy tuna ceviche.)

It’s a restaurant where dad can get his $30 filet, and kids can get something more suitable for them, Salisbury says. “I have a lot of freedom here to make things the way I want,” he says. “There aren’t restrictions as to what we can do.”

Like his mother, he’s always looking for new ideas to give his dishes a creative flare. As part of his culinary inspiration, Salisbury subscribes to Food and Wine magazine and keeps a library of cookbooks at home.

He speaks with pride when he explains his Latin-inspired menu is the result of years of self-teaching. “You see a part of a dish you like, and you try it out,” he says.

And as an ode to his New Hampshire roots, you occasionally might catch him making a chowda.

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