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She's a cattle rancher and he loves to cook. Together, they opened a steakhouse

Terrill Trask, a man in black-rimmed glasses, light beige jeans and a floral shirt with a beard, and Jess Trask, a woman with brown hair in a black t-shirt and ripped blue jeans, smile with their arms around one another in front of a sign that reads “JT Steakhouse.”
Courtesy Jess and Terrill Trask
Terrill and Jess Trask recently opened JT's Steakhouse in Ely, Nevada.

By Sofia Terenzio/Marketplace
This story originally aired on “Marketplace” on June 17.

Jess and Terrill Trask are the owners of JT's Steakhouse in Ely, Nevada.

Jess raises beef at her family’s ranch Perigo Hay & Cattle in White Pine County, Nevada. Before opening their restaurant, Terrill worked as a math teacher, but he's always had a passion for cooking.

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A few years ago, Terrill started catering on the side to showcase Jess's beef and satiate his passion for cooking. When they received an offer from a local casino to open a restaurant on its premises, they jumped on the opportunity. At the start of 2024, they opened JT's for business.

Jess supplies all of the beef at the steakhouse. Terril works as a chef and develops the menu. They run many of the other daily operations of the business together.

While finding a work-life-balance has been difficult for the both of them, it's been a sacrifice they've been willing to make.

 A black and white image shows Jess and Terrill Trask on horses, both wearing cowboy hats and looking off at the distant landscape.
Courtesy, Jess and Terrill Trask
"I think every ranch should have a steakhouse attached to it,” said Jess Trask, co-owner of JT’s Steakhouse in Ely, Nevada.

You can listen to her full story using the media player above or read a transcript of her story below:

Jess Trask: I’m Jess Trask.

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Terrill Trask: And I’m Terrill Trask.

Jess: And we own JT Steakhouse in Ely, Nevada. We are truly a farm-to-table dining experience. All of the beef that we serve at JTS comes from our ranch, which is Perigo Hay & Cattle, my family's ranch.

Terrill: And then, on my side, it's nice because I'm able to then, in turn, pick her beef and cook it in the restaurant. So yeah, it's truly a unique experience, especially here in Ely, Nevada.

Jess: When I started selling beef from our ranch direct to consumer in 2020, I was doing that for a few years, and every single year we saw tremendous growth with that. Terril has always had a passion for cooking. So he's like, "Hey, while I'm teaching, maybe on the side, I can do some catering and showcase your beef." And I was like, "Yeah, I love it." And then that just kind of like, snowballed into, "Hey, maybe we should just open a steakhouse because this seems to be going really well." So yeah, it's been great.

Terrill: We're charging probably a little bit more than the rest of the community is charging for a restaurant. For example, I think our most expensive item right now is the ribeye. We're charging about $45 for that. I always get texts from people when they visit to Vegas. "They're like look at these prices compared to where you're at. You know, you could be charging so much more." But we're trying to find a price point that still allows us to pay off some debt but not outprice ourselves for the community.

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Jess: The interesting thing about raising beef is that you have to project about two years out on what you're going to do or the quantity you're going to need. So two years ago, I didn't know we're going to have a steakhouse. So I did not set enough calves aside. On top of that, there are very few USDA butchers in our area. So there's a little bit of a bottleneck in processing, as well. So all these kinds of things, you just have to hit a moving target constantly.

Terrill: Overcoming the startup cost has been really, really hard, you know. And so we had a decent chunk. We've been very fortunate that some of the lenders around here have seen our dream and been able to give us some money. We're making progress. I'll be honest, that it really has in the last month — now that we've kind of survived the first three-month period, we're able to start pay off some of the debt. And then eventually hopefully, I'll be able to start getting my own paycheck, but I don't know when that's going to be.

Jess: Pretty soon!

Terrill: Hopefully soon. We'll see though. My biggest challenge right now is finding a work-and-personal-life balance, because I've been doing, I feel like I've been working about 22 to 24 hours a day, it seems.

Jess: Yeah, and with ranching, you know, ranching is already 24/7/365. There's no vacations from ranching. Some people are always like, "So you decided you're going to do ranching and a restaurant, which are like the two busiest things?" But I always tell people, "When you have a passion for and you love it, it is work, but it's really not." To be able to walk into a restaurant and see just your dreams come to fruition, or like the dreams you didn't even know you had come to fruition, it's amazing and the coolest thing ever. And I think every ranch should have a steakhouse attached to it.

This series is part of Marketplace’s “My Economy” series, which tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.