Posts Tagged ‘Christopher’s on Whidbey’

Tyler Dale, friend to all. (Photos courtesy Kathi Dale)

Tyler Dale was an original.

A kind, hard-working guy, he bopped to his own beat, while being one of those rare people who was well-liked by all.

During the three years we worked together at Christopher’s on Whidbey, he lit up the kitchen.

There was no job too big or too small for Tyler, and he thrived amid the heat and the splattering grease.

A slow Wednesday night or the middle of the never-ending storm that was the mussel festival, he was in his element.

Cooking, slicing ‘n dicing, or cleaning (he loved cleaning like no one I know), he always let loose with a steady stream of chatter and laughter which carried from one end of the cramped work space to the other.

Tyler passed too soon, but he will live on through his son, and the memories of all who crossed his path.


From his mom, Kathi Dale:

Tyler James Dale

September 30, 1990 – July 19, 2019

Born on September 30, 1990, growing up in Everett, Washington until the age of seven, when the family made the move to Whidbey Island.

He attended Coupeville Elementary School, where he was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, loving the Pinewood Derby.

He loved working with Destination Imagination, to create and invent fun and amazing gadgets.

In middle school, Tyler was selected to participate in Day Star Academy with Mrs. (Liz) Sherman and Mrs. (Mendy) McLean-Stone, where his creativity was encouraged, working on “Tyler time.”

After a short time in Coupeville High School he then transferred to Bayview School.

Tyler was not a ‘book learner’ and learned best with hands-on experiences.

He then participated in job corp in Yachats, Oregon, where he received his General Education Degree (GED) in May, 2008.

Tyler began working at Christopher’s on Whidbey, as a dishwasher. Working his way up to prepping and a line cook.

This is where his creativity and love for cooking was advanced.

Being a “tinkerer” of many things. Beginning with models and bicycles.

One of his most favorite things was his Chevy S-10 trucks and blazers.

Tyler loved trucks, working on them, and sharing his knowledge with others.

Always making improvements and advances to make it go faster, having a custom look.

He enjoyed creating many things out of used items.

Tyler was gifted with an amazing analytical and problem-solving mind on how to make things work.

Tyler developed a love for the banjo and taught himself how to play. Something that brought that big silly smile to his face.

Two buddies hanging out.

After knowing each other since third grade and being close friends for many years, Tyler married Becca (Achurra) on May 18, 2013 in Moses Lake, Wa.

With the birth of their son, Craig James Ray Dale in December, 2016.

Tyler, wife Becca, and their son, Craig.

Tyler loved being a daddy to his son.

Teaching him “car things.”

Tyler, you are loved and missed.

Always a proud poppa.

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The Wurzrainer’s, who have owned Christopher’s on Whidbey for 18 years, are, left to right, Andreas, Tia, Lisa, and Sebastian. (Photo courtesy Andreas Wurzrainer)

Quick! Someone save the chocolate mousse recipe!!

The Coupeville restaurant scene is about to witness a huge transition, as Christopher’s on Whidbey is changing ownership for the first time in nearly two decades.

Head chef/owner Andreas Wurzrainer released the following statement Tuesday night:

It is with mixed emotions, that we announce that after nearly 18 years, Lisa and I have decided to hand the Christopher’s apron over to new owners.

As many of you know, I have been offered a position as the Director of Food Services for the Coupeville School District to head up their new Connected Food Program, which will focus on scratch-made, locally-sourced (when possible), and high-quality food for the students in our school district.

I feel honored to be a part of these exciting changes!

This new opportunity to make a substantial difference in the health and well-being of Coupeville’s children deserves my full attention.

After serious consideration, we realized that this new position, coupled with the daily responsibilities of running a busy restaurant, would be just too much for me.

Owning Christopher’s has allowed us to live and work in this amazing community on this magical island!

On this journey we have made many lasting and wonderful memories and built countless treasured friendships.

We have felt connected with, and loved and appreciated by, our local community and we feel privileged to have been able to raise Sebastian and Tia here.

Coupeville is our home and we care very deeply about it.

Shortly after we made the decision to sell, we heard that Brian and Nancy Cedar, the former owners of the Greenbank Grille, were looking for an opportunity to again serve great food to our island community.

We reached out to them and were thrilled to discover that they were indeed very excited about the prospect of taking over Christopher’s to continue to build on what we have grown over the years and to give it their own personal touch.

We believe they will be a great asset to the community, and we look forward to seeing how they make it their own.

They will officially take ownership on July 1. Until then, business as usual at Christopher’s.

Lisa and I will be opening the pantry (in the building adjacent to the restaurant) for the last two days of June (Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30) from 1:00 until 6:00 with a very limited menu.

Come by and say hello, we would love to see you!

Thank you for being part of our lives for the last 18 years, we will cherish it forever!


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The man, the myth, the legend, Jim Castaneda. (Jeffery McKeown photo)

The man, the myth, the legend, Jim Castaneda. (Jeffery McKeown photo)


   Castaneda (second from left) and his acapella group Kickshaw, opening for Huey Lewis (black shirt) in 2002. (Photo courtesy Castaneda)

Castaneda as Gomez in The Addams Family. (Katie Woodzick photo)

On-stage as Gomez in The Addams Family. (Katie Woodzick photo)

Gazing into a bright musical future. (McKeown photo)

Gazing into a bright musical future. (McKeown photo)

The song remains the same, but the venue is changing.

After a decade-plus of balancing cooking at Christopher’s on Whidbey with his musical career, Jim Castaneda is leaving behind the sizzle of the kitchen and fully embracing his life behind the mic.

The veteran singer/songwriter, who has graced many a stage as a solo artist, a member of several successful groups, and, in recent years, as a song and dance man on the theatrical stage, is jazzed for what’s ahead.

“I feel like I’ve found a sound, a songwriting voice and a live presentation that lets me explore my musicality,” Castaneda said. “I’ve been in situations surrounding live performance for long enough now that I know when something reaches people.

“I’ve talked with numerous fans, friends, family, business owners and musicians alike who genuinely enjoy what I’m bringing to the table,” he added. “I’m not getting any younger and I want to be able to share my live art in more places.

“I think I have put together a marketable musical project, and as my songs are still lining up in notebooks and studio demos, ready to be developed … and as maybe the world needs a little more of the positive groove … and as … why now? why not?”

Castaneda will continue to work the line regularly at Christopher’s through the end of Feb., before fully kicking off the new direction in a musical career which began as a young teen.

Fans can catch him at Rustica in Oak Harbor, where he hosts an open mic every Thursday, and Castaneda has a plum gig performing at the annual Penn Cove Mussel Fest.

He’ll play in the waterfront tent at 11:30 AM Saturday, Mar. 4.

“My second year in a row!,” he said. “Just look for the chowder ticket line and listen for the music, you’ll find me.

“Then you’ll find me and (wife) Heidi cruizin’ around C-town slurping down mussel chowders.”

Castaneda will also be returning to Blooms Winery in Langley for its Sunday afternoon concert series and is slated to do another stint as a judge for Whidbey Has Talent.

Auditions begin in March, with local middle school students coming together at the Oak Harbor High School auditorium Apr. 9 for the big show.

“Last year was a wonderful time and a successful first year,” Castaneda said. “It’s an awesome day seeing the talent these kids bring to the stage.

“Some of them even got to play at this year’s Oak Harbor Music Festival. Good stuff.”

Another relatively new addition to his musical empire came courtesy of former Christopher’s co-worker Chelsea Randall, who brought him into the world of musical theater at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

After making his debut playing multiple roles (jazz crooner, cop, doctor) in a production of City of Angels choreographed by Randall and directed by her mom, Elizabeth Herbert, Castaneda had the acting bug.

From there, he’s been a dancing Santa, “tasted the sweet darkness” as Gomez in The Addams Family, and had major roles in everything from 1776 to Spamalot.

Currently, he’s on the lighting crew for the Whidbey Playhouse production of Into the Woods.

“Part of my intention upon getting involved in theater was to learn about larger scale, professional productions,” Castaneda said. “I had no idea I’d learn so much.

“Not only about the acting, which I love, but I got a chance to be on the stage managing team with two productions and this year I’m helping run a surprisingly intricate lighting system.”

Castaneda plans to return to the stage often, though he will put it on the back burner a bit in the coming days.

“Would love to act more, but my creative life needs to be focused on making music,” he said. “I can be an old man actor after I lose my teeth and can’t beat box anymore.”

For now, the music is the thing.

“Playing music, writing music, collaborating and sharing the stage with other musicians, producing more audio and some performance video here and there,” Castaneda said. “I’ll be concentrating on generating an abundant live performance schedule over the next decade.

“Music festivals, taprooms, wineries, promoters, talent agents, bars, clubs, parties – you name it,” he added. “Working to establish myself as a go-to versatile musician.

“I’ve worked hard to hone my skills and develop my sound and now I’m off to find my audience.”

As he departs the kitchen, he leaves behind a large family comprised of current and former workmates, who hail him for his easy-going nature, his dedication to his craft and his calmness under fire on the many nights when the Christopher’s kitchen was really hoppin’.

Jim is one of those people that you meet in life and you think to yourself, I’m really glad I know him,” said former Christopher’s manager Kelsey Simmons. “Jim has a gracious way of connecting with people which has made him a great person to be around at Christopher’s, and successful within the music industry.

“I can’t wait to watch Jim jump into his music with both feet.”

Castaneda answered a newspaper ad, and found an immediate connection with “Master Dre‘,” owner/chef Andreas Wurzrainer.

“It’s been an incredible place to work. Andreas and (wife) Lisa have never been anything but gracious and flexible with schedule.

“Mine has been a challenging one, but we found a place for me on the team where I could contribute where they needed and I could also work toward my goals in the music business at the same time.”

Being a quick seven-minute drive from his house (or less, depending on urgency), Christopher’s became a second home for Castaneda, one where he found new challenges and rewards.

“I know how to cook! And I mean really cook.”

Put in a decade at a restaurant, even one where the staff turnover was remarkably low for much of that time, and you get a chance to work with a wide variety of people.

It was an experience Castaneda cherishes.

“I have worked with quite a few servers, cooks and dishwashers over the years. Everyone has their own special way about them,” he said. “I got to know some and some moved on too soon. Some took care of kitchen knives; some did not. Some come back every now and then and some weren’t really ever there in the first place.

“Some went and had babies and some are in the middle of having babies right now. One plays the banjo for his baby,” Castaneda added. “Some were older; some were in for their first job. Some were locals from birth and some were from California.

“Some thought they knew what they were doing when they didn’t and some were more talented than they thought. Some became friends and some I’ll never see again.”

As he edges for the door (which will always remain open should he choose to ever return), Castaneda does so with his customary low-key smile still firmly intact.

“The team right now works well together and is filled with personality and talented, goodhearted people,” he said. “It’s an environment I hope they appreciate as much as I have.

“All workplaces are not created equal. I will miss it.”


To follow Jim’s musical career, pop over to:



Full disclosure: I worked with Jim at Christopher’s from 2012-2015.

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Tia Wurzrainer gets ready to trigger the Wolf offense. (John Fisken photo)

Tia Wurzrainer gets ready to trigger the Wolf offense. (John Fisken photo)

“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play!”

That’s a quote which means quite a bit to Tia Wurzrainer.

Delivered by high school hotshot Ema Smith last winter, it’s a bit of wisdom which spurred on Wurzrainer throughout her 8th grade basketball season.

“That quote stayed with me through the whole season,” Wurzrainer said. “I always think of that quote right before every basketball game and it inspires and motivates me.”

It obviously worked, as she was a ball-hawk for the Wolves, while also showing a light shooting touch, garnering many of her points off of steals and tipped balls.

Now, as she prepares to move up to high school — she’ll be a freshman at CHS in the fall and plans to play soccer, basketball and track — Wurzrainer is getting ready for a juggling act.

“My goals for freshman year are to keep my grades up, while being able to play sports, and still be able to spend time with my family,” she said.

That family includes parents Andreas and Lisa and older brother Sebastian, who just capped his run at CHS by being co-valedictorian.

Tia rides horses with her mom, and hits the slopes with the family (“I love to go skiing with my parents and brother”), which is a tight-knit one.

“My parents have had the biggest impact on me!,” Wurzrainer said. “They have always believed in me and told me that hard work pays off.

“My Dad got me started with soccer and we used to go outside and pass the ball and he comes out and shoots the basketball with me whenever he can,” she added. “He reminds me to have fun and do my best.

“My parents have always told me to be proud of who I am and to not compare myself to anyone else!”

A big fan of her language arts classes (“I love to write!!”), Wurzrainer has also found a second family with her friends and classmates, especially those who she shares the field with.

“One of my favorite parts of being an athlete is the chance to be part of a team, because a team to me is family,” she said. “I also love the rush of games!”

As she makes the jump to high school sports, Wurzrainer wants to work on her confidence, especially in sports she is fairly new to, such as basketball.

Put her on the soccer pitch, which is where she’ll kick things off this fall, and she’s at home, however.

“I have played it the longest and I love the fact that you have to work together with you team to get the ball into the back of the net,” Wurzrainer said. “I always feel excited before every game!”

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I’m not wearing pants in this photo. If I had a “real” job, I’d have to wear pants.

Everything about Coupeville Sports is irrational.

If I was being rational, I wouldn’t have thrown a hissy fit when the Coupeville Examiner sold itself to the same Canadian newspaper conglomerate that already owned the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record and stomped off to start this blog in August, 2012.

Of course, when years of my freelance stories (many of which were never paid for) got deleted in a single keystroke, it was fairly easy to feel all pissy and self-righteous.

If I was being rational, I would have accepted one of the overtures I have received since then, and taken my writing skills back inside the conventional newspaper industry.

But once you get a taste of freedom, with its double-exclamation point headlines, you can’t go back. Or, at least, I doubt I could.

While Coupeville Sports has never made me rich (focusing on a small town in the middle of nowhere apparently is not catnip to national advertisers), I have gotten far more enjoyment out of the last 43 months than I did out of the previous 15 years of freelance writing.

Now, for the first 33 months of this blog, I balanced it with a “real” job at Christopher’s on Whidbey, which helped pay the bills.

Last May I decided to take some time off, mainly to help my fingers, which are kinda, sorta important to writing.

Dish-washing and onion peeling are brutal on the hands, and, while owner Andreas Wurzrainer was exceedingly helpful when it came to juggling schedules so I could cover sports, three-plus years in the pit was more than enough.

Having never been without a “real” job for longer than 2-3 weeks since I was a pre-teen (my dad enjoyed having his children work for his window washing/carpet cleaning business), taking what I thought would be a month or two off seemed quite exciting.

Then, things happened, my personal life imploded (I’ll spare you the details) and I developed a serious resistance to plunging back into the “real” job world, something that has only intensified in the months that followed.

So, I doubled down on Coupeville Sports, greatly expanding my coverage, both in terms of what I covered in person and how in-depth I’ve gone.

I sold all my DVDs (2,500+), radically reduced my bills (rent, propane, internet and car insurance on “The Beast That Will Not Die” is all I have), finally got an EBT card and have managed to stay one (small) step ahead for almost 10 months now.

During that time, I have been a regular at middle school games, hitched rides with people to cover stuff on the road, written a billion (give or take one or two) birthday articles and gone extensively into local sports history in a way not done before.

With all due respect to the local newspapers, and my mentors like Jim Waller and Keven Graves, I offer something they don’t have the time, patience or desire to do.

They have to juggle two towns, they face deadlines, they have to be more professional, than I do. Comes with the job.

They are the dad sitting in the easy chair, reading the paper and occasionally looking over it to tell you what’s going on in the world. And don’t get me wrong, they are very good at what they do, and they fill an important role.

I have no desire to see the newspapers go away.

But me?

I’m the little kid who has crawled up to the top of the fence, and then, as I’m rocking back and forth, trying not to crack open my head, bellows “Hey, hey, hey, guess what I heard?!?!?!?”

I’m the gossip guy, the builder of myths, the nickname-giver, the idiot who is entertaining himself (and hopefully a few others).

Still tick off some people (especially if they live in South Whidbey and are softball fans), but hopefully have mellowed a bit. But just a bit.

In the end, all my writing, all the photos, all the hyperventilating hyperbole is meant to do one thing — to make all the other towns, and their athletes and coaches, jealous.

If they lived in Coupeville, they’d be immortalized.

But they live in Darrington, or Seattle, or, God help them, the wilds of South Whidbey, and they’re lucky to get one story a year.

We may not have as many championships as other towns, but we’re damn sure going to be the kings and queens of story-telling.

When our kids, the kids you raised and the kids I wrote about, graduate and move on, they will be able to look back and say “I was part of something special, something that hadn’t happened before.”

At least I’d like to think so.

But then, I’m an unemployed idiot, so take everything I say with a grain of salt, maybe.

And now we get to the point of all of this (’bout freakin’ time…) ranting and raving.

As we sit here in the middle of March, I have hit the wall.

Even with my sparse bills (did I mention I don’t waste money on cigarettes, booze or Netflix?), I either need to get some help or I will need to return to the “real” working world before the month is done.

Either way, Coupeville Sports is not going anywhere. And I will never charge you to read my stories like the newspapers do.

But, if I go back to “real” work, coverage will change.

Birthday stories and a lot of the deep history stories will most likely have to be cut. I won’t have the time.

Covering events in person, which allows me to be much more creative than merely writing off of emails from coaches (with the exception of David and Amy King, who spin beautiful stories while riding school buses), could be greatly affected, depending on the time constraints of a real job.

I would prefer to remain a “shiftless bum,” with writing my main priority.

If you want to help, there are three ways.

Donations, either one-time or monthly, are greatly appreciated. There is a handy button on the top right of this blog, I have a mailbox (165 Sherman, Coupeville, WA 98239) or you can slip something in my pocket at a game.

Not your wadded up candy wrapper, maybe, but you get the point.

I also sell ads (they go down the right side of the blog) for $100, and, once purchased, are good for the life of the blog.

Yes, yes, yes, selling them once raises less money than repeatedly charging people (I know how advertising works), but it’s how I started and it wouldn’t be fair to those who supported me in the beginning to change the rules now.

Irrational, maybe. Loyal, definitely.

The third option is to have me write stuff for your business, like I do with places such as Ashley’s Design and The Pacific NorthWest Art School.

Typically I charge $30 for an article per month (topic of your choosing) or, if you sign up for a year and hand me $300, I’ll give you two free months.

Heck, I’ll write the Christmas letter you send to family, if you like. Make lil’ Johnny and Sally sound like superstars!

Coupeville Sports, in all its irrational glory, has always been what we all make of it. And that will always hold true.

We’ll keep moving forward, and see where this wacky ride ends up going.

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