Monday, July 18, 2011

So, a bear walked into a restaurant...

It was late Friday night, maybe around midnight. Hank and I were hanging out after hours at a restaurant in Truckee called Stella. We were drinking wine with Chef Jacob Burton and talking about the menu for Saturday's dinner - one of Hank's "Hunt, Gather, Cook" book events.

Then Chef looked up and said, "There's a bear in the kitchen."

He said it so calmly that it didn't register right away. I looked as a matter of courtesy, and

HO. LEE. SHIT! There's a bear in the kitchen!!!

He was about 10 yards from our table, and he looked big. His shoulders were several inches higher than the counter tops, and his head was huge. Just in case you're easily duped, I'll confess now that the photo above is a fake, but the proportions are just about right.

So what does one do in a situation like this?

I addressed him like I talk to my cats when they jump on the kitchen table. "Hey, get outta here!" I growled.

"No!" Chef said. "Let me get a picture!"

Clearly, he was insane, though I must admit I was kicking myself for leaving my camera in the hotel room.

The bear took a swipe at something we couldn't see, then thought better of his decision and backed out.

Chef and I, having no sense whatsoever, walked back toward the door. He was shooting video on his phone, but didn't get the bear in it. I caught just a glimpse through the back door of the bear slipping around a corner in the parking lot. The video ends with the camera pointing to the floor and Chef saying, "Oh no, my starter!"

The bear had taken one whiff of Chef's bucket of sourdough starter and decided it smelled yummy - no need for baking.

Coincidentally, Chef had been telling us how many times his starter had died when he had first joined the restaurant. And there it was, a goopy mess all over the floor.

"Uh, does this happen often?" I asked Chef.

"Nope, first time," he said.

I still can't figure out how the hell he managed to sound so calm.

It was a hell of a way to start the weekend. We told the story over and over for the next 24 hours, and while the denizens of Truckee are totally accustomed to the antics of black bears looking for easy food, our story never failed to elicit surprise.

And there was a happy ending: Mr. Bear didn't get all the starter, so Chef's sourdough - revered by patrons, we'd learn the next day - was safe.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


The Hunter's Wife said...

HO. LEE. $HIT! You saw a bear in a kitchen!!! ;)

Barbara Baird said...

And this illustrates perfectly why creative non-fiction beats fiction any day. You just cannot make this stuff up, and if you do, it's never as good as the real thing.

What would you have done if the bear got ... aggressive and didn't want to share "his" starter?

Shewee woman said...

So I click on Stella's website and after reading your blog, their slogan says it all. "Where style meets adventure". That was quite an adventure!

Fish Cop said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog--yours is really good too. Great story. I'll stick a link to your blog on my page. Thanks!

Fish Cop

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

As Barbara said, this is better than fiction.

Marian Ann Love said...

That is sooooo cool Holly! What are the chances of that happening again! I know it scared the you know what out of you! At least he ate and ran! ;) What a story to tell! :)

Chloe Daley said...

Oh my goodness. Such a great story. Crazy.

Holly Heyser said...

Barbara: That thought actually did cross my mind, and I must admit I never formulated an answer.

Shewee woman: Cedar House (the hotel of which Stella is a part) bills itself as a "sport hotel," and it is, even without bear visits, totally awesome. Beautifully designed. Great staff. And dogs are welcome, because they know dogs are part of active people's lives.

Fish Cop: Thanks for coming by! And hey everyone, check out Fish Cop's new blog - great stuff.

Tovar: I think I'd be a horrible fiction writer - I'm a terrible faker in every respect. (It's also why I rarely "tablescape" my food photos - I know it'll look totally contrived.)

Hunter's Wife, Marian, Chloe: I'm so grateful to lead such a ridiculous life. It would be such a tragedy if it were boring.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

What I wouldn't give to have been there. Wow.

Holly Heyser said...

Tarar, what I wouldn't have given to have had a firearm and a tag!

David J Blackburn said...

This one went straight to Facebook.

SimplyOutdoors said... least everyone remained calm, considering there was a FREAKING BEAR IN THE KITCHEN!

I'm glad the story had a happen ending, and it sure makes for a good story.

Galen Geer said...

That story tops anything I have ever experienced. It is wonderful and I wish I had thought of it for my next collection of short stories! It's great! Seriously.
Just sent Hank the questions for the book review. Do you realize that his is the first cookbook I have ever read cover to cover just because it is great reading!