Even if you’ve been coming here for so long that all the servers know your little ways and preferences – like how you like your first martini and what steak you usually order – you’ll still feel a little rush of joy each time you step through the revolving doors of Mahogany. There’s a well-trained team, all devoted to giving you the perfect experience. For a few golden hours, you’ll know what it’s like to be royalty.
There’s a slow, ritualistic pace to the evening, all leading up to the triumphant climax: the steak. USDA Prime and aged for three weeks, all the steaks come from a small family butcher shop in Chicago.
Meanwhile, in a brightly lit room not far from the dining hall, servers are waiting for their orders and line chefs are cooking them. The fate of your steak – and of your evening, really – is in the hands of one man: the head of the grill station, Pedro Lagunas. He’s been working at Mahogany almost as long as it’s been open, and he has quite a story to tell.
“I was born in Mexico,” says Lagunas, “and I grew up with my grandparents because my dad left home when I was four, and he never came back.”
They lived on a small farm in Morelos, a hilly region not far from the capital, where Lagunas helped his grandfather. His grandma was an excellent cook, but “our home kitchen was for the ladies only, so I never was allowed to cook anything back home.”
When his grandmother got sick, Lagunas quit school and found work to support the family. He had relatives in the U.S. and got a visa, working odd jobs until he landed in Tulsa and got a gig as a dishwasher at Charleston’s. He was only 16. He told the managers he wanted to be a chef.
“You’re still a baby,” they told him. But one chef, David Wacker, gave him late-night cooking lessons after the restaurant closed.
“I was just cooking employee’s hamburgers,” says Lagunas, “but I loved it because I wanted to learn.”
Turned out, he had quite the talent, moving up the ranks quickly, until he got to the broiler station.
“At the age of 17, I was the main broiler guy in a restaurant that did $20,000 dollars a day in sales,” he says.
Charleston’s is part of the Hal Smith group, so when leadership opened Mahogany, they knew their success depended on their broilers. In May 2002, they hired Lagunas to run them, and he’s been there ever since.
The pressure must be immense, especially when 7:00 p.m. rolls around and 40 different orders come in, each for a different steak, cooked a different way. Lagunas takes it in stride.
“Working for Mahogany is like going to the park with my kids,” he says. “I go there and have fun. I cook steaks for 300 people and it’s not a problem. I don’t feel like I’m better than anybody else that works there, but they said I’m the best broiler guy that they ever had.”
Maybe that’s because he cares about every steak.
“I like my steaks to be perfect,” he says. “Perfect amount of salt and pepper and perfect temperature of the plate.”
Or maybe it’s because he’s always thinking of ways to improve his work.
“Listen,” he says as you’re about to leave. “I have a great idea about how to cook your steak. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s a little different.”
Grain-Fed Mahogany Steak
- 1 Grain-fed, prime midwestern steak from L&L Meat Packing
- Kosher salt to taste
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Clarified butter to finish
Simply season with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
Broil steak at 900 degrees in specialty Montague broiler for perfect sear.
Once complete, serve on a 400-degree plate.
Finish with clarified butter.