YAKIMA, Wash. -- They run our favorite restaurants, prepare and serve the food and drinks we love and know what coffee we want before we say a single word.
Restaurant owners and managers, servers, chefs, cooks, bartenders and baristas throughout the Yakima Valley help us start and end our days and make life that much better in all the hours between. So we’re highlighting them in SCENE with 10 Questions With..., a feature where we can help introduce them to the community.
Nominate your favorite food service and coffee industry folks by emailing email@example.com with the words “10 Questions With” in the subject line.
Bradford “Buck” Girard is a 29-year-old Yakima native with an interesting backstory.
While he was in middle school, his parents participated in a teacher exchange that had them swapping houses and jobs, and spending time in Australia.
“It was out in the middle of nowhere,” Girard explained. “You know how Yakima is the Palm Springs of Washington? Well, that was ‘where the Outback meets the sea’ because it’s just desert all the way to the coastline and that’s it.”
Girard graduated from Eisenhower High School before majoring in political science and history at Washington State University. He lived in Spokane and Florida for a while, and started bartending the day he turned 21.
He bartends at E.Z Tiger five days a week and picks up some morning shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays at Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Ice House Bar. He’s been at Cowiche for about 3 1/2 years and at E.Z Tiger before it made the transition from Restaurant Wahluke.
■ Hometown? Yakima
■ Favorite dish? “My favorite dish is the fried rice. It’s kind of like a fried rice version of Bibimbap, where it gets cooked in the dish in the stone bowl at the table. It’s super fresh, great flavor — it’s awesome. I think that’s the crown jewel of our menu.”
His other favorite item at E.Z Tiger? The pork belly steam buns.
■ Favorite restaurant? “If we’re going whole Valley, for breakfast, Yellow Church Cafe in Ellensburg. For lunch, I would say Sports Center. And then dinner, for sure, Crafted.”
■ If you weren’t working here, what job would you do? “If it’s dream job, it would be anything in the comedy field — I love standup comedy. I do standup every once in a while at Sports Center on Tuesday nights. But it would be in New York or L.A. Even if it was just mopping up at the comedy store — just to be around those people — it would be a dream job.”
■ What do you do in your spare time? “Lately, I have been — if not at work — I’ve been volunteering for some congressional campaigns and state House races. It was pretty nice. We got six of our seven candidates through the general election.”
He also enjoys playing with his dog, Oliver, a 2-year-old blue heeler-collie mix.
“And trying to make my rounds of the other restaurants so I can make sure I’m in good graces with them so they’ll come in and give me their money,” he said with a laugh. “You gotta make sure you’re cool with the other bartenders in town.”
He said it’s important for everyone in the industry to support one another.
■ Most unusual request? “Dunno if it’s the most unusual. The most frustrating is when people who have a device in their hands that has the history of the world’s information on it and they ask me to call them a cab. It baffles me that you have the internet and a phone and a cellular device. ...”
“Drink-wise, I used to have a lady who came in and would order an ounce of sweet vermouth and an ounce of dry vermouth on the rocks mixed, which I think is disgusting. I don’t know where she picked that up.”
■ Best-kept secret? “I think as far as the restaurant, the menu, the drinks, everything has been pretty well-heralded. But our best-kept secret is some of our employees who aren’t front of the house or don’t work the jobs where people necessarily see the results.”
Girard points out Romero, who started in the dish pit and has been working his way up through the kitchen: “He’s worked more hours than anyone but maybe our sous chef. Not only does Romero always have a smile on his face, Girard said he’s probably the main reason nothing has ever burned down.”
Thunder is another employee who stands out: “He’s our back waiter. Essentially, the expo, busser and sweeper. I’ve never seen him stop moving, and he always has a good attitude.”
Then there’s Peter, the sous chef: “My biggest nightmare is someone seeing how good he is and stealing him away to open another restaurant. But the guys that keep our restaurant moving — that’s our real secret.”
■ Most popular offering? The pork belly steam buns. “Someone the other day said they’re our version of a White Castle burger. It’s kind of a like a dim sum slider. They’re little, they’re cute, they’re packed full of flavor — they’re the best.”
■ Most devoted regulars? “I would say the Bale Breaker crew. Not only do they come check on us — they check on us more than they ever really need to — they’ve been really supportive. They take really good care of us. They’re awesome.”
■ Why would you recommend E.Z Tiger? “It kind of goes back to our credo here. Our whole philosophy is to do our best, to honor our guests’ time and money. And if anyone feels that’s not the case, we’ll do whatever is possible to make it right.”