Timberline Lodge Executive Chef Jason Stoller Smith is a self-made professional. Rather than attend European-styled cooking schools, he pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps, starting his cooking career at the young age of 16 and immersing himself in commercial kitchens throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It is a story similar to many chefs who discover their passion for food while just trying to earn a living. That’s the great thing about working in kitchens…you can do it anywhere. Jason traveled from Colorado Springs to Ashland, OR, before landing in Olympia, WA, gaining experience every step of the way. With the intent of beginning his culinary education at a cooking school in Olympia, Jason started working at Budd Bay Cafe in 1996, a popular seafood restaurant. After working there for a few short months, his strong work ethic and excellent culinary skills were immediately recognized by the restaurant’s owners and he was offered his first executive chef position. He decided to forgo cooking school so he could seize this incredible opportunity.
With two years of solid experience under his belt, he headed to Oregon’s National Historic Landmark Timberline Lodge, where he saw an opportunity to pursue his passion for true seasonal food preparation. Within his first year, he rose to the rank of Executive Sous Chef.
After four years under the tutelage of Timberline’s then chef, Leif Eric Benson, Jason left with Chef Benson’s encouragement to experience more of what Oregon’s bounty had to offer. Jason moved to a vineyard in the Dundee Hills of Oregon and became a partner at the Dundee Bistro with wine pioneers Dick and Nancy Ponzi. While there, he earned a reputation as one of the premier Northwest chefs and directed the culinary program for what became Oregon’s signature wine country restaurant. In 2004, Jason was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. In 2005, the Oregon Restaurant Association awarded him a scholarship to study food and wine pairing at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. Jason continued to hone his food and wine pairing skills by working closely with wineries throughout Oregon, and he was appointed as board member at the International Pinot Noir Celebration. Jason has been a featured chef at IPNC since 2001 and has become rather well known for orchestrating the elaborate traditional Native American-style salmon bake.
Perhaps the ultimate compliment to his talents and hard work came in June 2010 when he was invited to bring the salmon bake to the White House. He was asked to represent the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest for a Congressional Picnic personally hosted by President and Mrs. Barack Obama. With his small team of volunteers, Jason literally dug up the front lawn of White House, built a 50-foot-long fire pit, and roasted salmon for 2000 guests and members of the United States Congress. He was personally greeted and thanked by the President and First Lady.
Jason’s career came full circle in June of 2010 when he returned to Timberline Lodge as Executive Chef upon the retirement of Chef Benson. He has since launched a successful Winemakers Dinner Series at Silcox Hut, elevated the lodge’s various food programs, opened Phlox Point Cabin, and helped design the new Wy’East Cafe. In 2012, he was invited once again to be a featured chef at the James Beard House. Jason oversees all the culinary efforts at Timberline’s seven Mt Hood restaurants, which includes the Lodge’s famous Cascade Dining Room, plus the full-service conference center and wedding venues. In Timberline’s high quality, high volume setting, Chef Jason Stoller Smith has hit his stride as a chef. His close ties with Northwest farmers, ranchers, vintners, brewers, and fishermen continues to nurture his reputation for utilizing locally-grown, sustainable food and beverage products. In the summer of 2016, Timberline Lodge is launching its proprietary beef program. With Timberline’s purchase of 52 head of cattle, Jason works closely with Deschutes River Beef ranchers to bring local, natural, traceable beef from gate to plate.
In his free time, Jason devotes his creative efforts to becoming a craft brewer of barrel-aged beers. His wife, Emily, along with 9-year-old Oliver and 4-year-old twins Helen and Jack, raise chickens and tend their garden. The Stoller Smith family enjoys attending Portland Timbers matches, camping, and exploring nature. Jason’s love of food is matched by his passion for travel, and he has been fortunate to combine these interests by visiting some of the best culinary destinations in the world. With stamps from Thailand, New Zealand, Peru, Denmark, France, Belgium, Singapore, Spain, and Italy in his passport, it is evident that Jason’s world travels directly influence his menus.