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Omaha Magazine

Deep-Fried Woodworks Jason Jones: The Deep-Fried, Corn-Fed Artist

May 27, 2020 10:37AM ● By Tamsen Butler

Born and raised in Omaha, chef and woodworking artist Jason Jones grew up with a pastry chef mom and an architect dad. “I grew up mostly around the restaurant scene, learning firsthand what a crazy, hectic, loud, beautiful, passionate, unique, and diverse place the professional kitchen is. A place where life lessons are practiced and learned. Make it or break it, this is where things get done,” Jones recalled fondly.

Culinary arts and architecture may seem an unlikely pair, but Jones proved the influence of the two can make something special. 

“When my dad would bring me to his office, I would head straight for the supply room just to look at all the tools the architects used. My dad, probably unknowingly, taught me that a tool is something to be respected and that it is not a toy.” 

His love of tools extends to his art today, as he uses hand tools to create his woodworking pieces—no power tools for this artist. “I started with a few cheap power tools and after a few injuries and many frustration-induced headaches, I started looking for another way.” He works out of a home workshop, creating original pieces “30 minutes at a time, or into the wee hours of the morning.” He markets his culinary tool creations under the company name Deep-Fried Woodworks.

Jones’ first job was washing dishes at La Casa Pizzaria on Leavenworth Street. “I worked hard and was eager to learn and wanted to show off my skills, imitating what I had seen in my family’s restaurant,” he remembered. “I worked there for about 10 years and I have nothing but good things to say about those amazing people.”

Cooking was always in his blood, Jones said. He was 23 when he enrolled in culinary school at Metropolitan Community College and, upon graduating,“I dove deep into the culinary world and tried to learn about everything I could get my hands on,” he said. “I worked with and under many talented chefs in many Omaha restaurants, including The Flatiron, Dario’s Brasserie, Localmotive food truck, and Avoli Osteria. Ultimately, I returned to the family that gave me a chance when I was just a kid.” He is currently a kitchen manager at La Casa Pizzaria.

Jones first stumbled upon a hand tool woodworking community on Instagram and was hooked. “This social community showed me a new and old world of working wood with hand tools. For the first time in my life I found something that I enjoyed as much as cooking.”

“I quickly started realizing the similarities between cooking and hand tool woodworking. Quality wood and materials are just as important as quality ingredients.” Most of the wood Jones uses for his pieces is locally sourced. 

“The similarities continued. A sharp tool is a safe tool. I could even use my kitchen knife-sharpening stones to sharpen my woodworking tools! Sharpening is a skill I had already learned in the kitchen, so it was great to be able to use that skill for a very different application,” he explained.

Jones creates pieces that are both useful and artistic. Most pieces lean toward the culinary and are “very functional,” said friend Brandon Hahn, who has known Jones since kindergarten. “He’s thought about it, and he’s got a better way of making it,” Hahn added. “If he’s not going to make it better, he’s not going to make it at all. He’s a very passionate dude.” 

Jones soon took to creating the very items he was accustomed to using in the kitchen. “I had worked with many wooden cutting boards and wooden utensils through the years, so I had a good idea of what I wanted. Soon friends and family became interested in my wood creations and I would give some away for presents. Then friends of friends would ask me to make something for them.” He’s been selling his creations about three years, launching a website in 2018. He said sales have about doubled over the past two years, though sales have never really been his focus.  

  “My focus is, and has always been, preserving traditions within the craft and highlighting the benefits of wooden kitchen products,” Jones said. “I want these items to be put to work, to be handcrafted one at a time, not manufactured by machines, last as long as possible, and to be an heirloom for people to want to use every day,” he shared.

Cutting boards are a favorite of his clients. “I still make a few here and there because it is an absolute essential tool in the kitchen and everyone who likes to cook should have a quality cutting board that, if properly cared for, will out-live them!”

Next came wooden spoons. “I designed and created the ‘Chefspoon,’ a spoon built from the ground up for all-purpose cooking,” Jones said. “I also carve eating spoons, serving spoons, and other cooking spoons. My process for these starts with a log and an axe. I finish with a carving knife and hook knife, not sandpaper. I enjoy doing these axe and knife spoon carving demonstrations at local art markets. I think people really like to see how their wood spoon is made one at a time with this attention to detail.” 

Jones has an insatiable desire to learn and grow and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. When asked to predict what the future holds for his art, he responded, “I am not sure what will come of my woodworking adventures, but right now the sky is the limit!” 

Check out more of Jason Jones’ culinary creations at deepfriedwoodworks.com.

This article was printed in the June 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.