Eric Trager

Eric Trager said he was "intrigued" with the idea of managing three restaurants at once. In addition to create the menu items at Bogart's and Red Lodge Pizza Co., Trager's main focus is being the chef at Carbon County Steakhouse.

JACI WEBB/Gazette Staff

Chef: Eric Trager

Restaurant: Carbon County Steakhouse, Bogart’s Pizza, Red Lodge Pizza Co., all in Red Lodge.

Background on the restaurants: I am executive chef of all three. I spend most of the time at Carbon County Steakhouse, which is the lead restaurant for Red Lodge Restaurants.

Hours for the Carbon County Steakhouse: Dinner is served seven nights a week from 4:30 to 9. Reservations are suggested by calling 446-4025.

Address: 119 S. Broadway.

Background in cooking: I have been here for a year. Before that I was the chef at Bridge Creek for 14 years. I was intrigued by the challenge of managing three restaurants. Before I moved to Red Lodge, I was a sous chef in Colorado and worked in Napa, Calif. I am originally from Massachusetts and zigzagged my way across the country. I got my culinary degree at Paul Smith College in New York. It’s the only culinary school that has a cross-country ski team. In culinary school, I was the only one in my group who had never cooked in a restaurant. The instructor rolled his eyes. But I made it as apprentice on the culinary team my first year and I was on the team the next year. Whatever they told me, I did.

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What is your restaurant’s most popular dish? I can’t take credit for this because it’s been on the menu for years, but it’s the cowboy rib-eye steak. It’s coffee-rubbed with a sweet coffee sauce.

What new items are you cooking up? I just won the chowder contest at ZooMontana with my blue cheese and steak chowder. I am adding that to the menu. I am also working on a seared salmon with three layers of sauce on it. I’ll call it Triple Tasting Salmon. I like things sweet at first so I’ll start with a sweet basil sauce. Then you want a savory. I am making a roasted tomato sauce. Then you bring in the salty when your palette gets bored. I’ll make a black olive sauce. I like full flavor and changing the flavor.

What cooking advice do you have? Food is organic. It’s never going to be the same. If you have a tomato vine-ripened from your garden, it doesn’t need a thing. But if you have a tomato that was picked green, you have to transform it with salt or an acid to bring out the flavor. Knowing the cuts of meat is also important. There is a science to food. If you cook a tenderloin like a pot roast, it will be stringy.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.