Jason Smith is the Executive Kitchen Manager at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant in Richmond, VA.
He is originally from Charlottesville, VA where he grew up and fell in love with cooking at an early age. Coming from a family entrenched in the food industry, this is not surprising. Jason’s grandparents owned a nearby hog farm and his family also had their own vegetable garden. In assisting with the hog farm and garden, Jason gained an appreciation for a self-sustaining way of life as well as an appreciation of cooking. He is very excited to now be living his childhood dream of becoming a chef!
As one of the lucky few who knew what he wanted to do as a career following his high school graduation, Jason attended Johnson & Wales in Norfolk, VA and earned degrees in both the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. His first restaurant jobs included working in the kitchens of the C&O Restaurant, the Tea Room Café, and the Red Oak Cafe. At what Jason would describe as the turning point in his career,
he left the Red Oak Café to become the Executive Sous Chef at Station 2 in Norfolk, VA. It was here that he learned more about international foods, menu planning, and the business of restaurants, which helped catapult him into other executive rolls soon thereafter. In 2007, Jason moved to Las Vegas and was hired as the Senior Kitchen Manager at the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels where he worked for 7+ years. As Jason views Las Vegas as one of the food capitals of the US, he had chosen to move here to advance his culinary career and hone his skills. It was after doing just this, that he moved back to Virginia to become the Executive Kitchen Manager at the new Cooper’s Hawk location.
As someone who is very passionate about what he does, Jason takes a lot of pride in his work and strives to be the best. He instills this attitude in all of his employees which helps to create a great kitchen atmosphere and tight-knit family. As Jason believes that “a meal is more than nourishment, it is an experience,” it is rewarding for him to see his customers realize this through the experience that his staff creates. This concept is evident in the Wine Club dinners at Cooper’s Hawk. These monthly dinners include a five course meal complete with wine pairings for each course. During the Wine Club dinners, Jason is able to interact with his customers in an intimate setting to describe what they are experiencing on each plate and with each sip. If you ask Jason, he will tell you that these dinners are his favorite part of his job!
In his free time Jason’s favorite thing to do is spend time with his wife, who he met Johnson & Wales, and his kids. He enjoys teaching his kids, Nolan (2) and Logan (5), about self-sustainability and a healthy lifestyle, just as he learned at a young age. They have a garden at home where they grow fresh herbs and vegetables and also enjoy fishing, watching NASCAR, and spending time together.
If you ever are in the Richmond, Virginia area, stop by Cooper’s Hawk to experience Jason’s culinary prowess first hand! Jason recommends trying the Asian Pork-Belly Tostadas as an appetizer, and the Trio of Medallions as the main course.
You won’t be disappointed!