Posts Tagged ‘Christopher’s on Whidbey’

Emma Puharic (right), with aunt Beth Tristao.

Always be humble and kind.

And passionate, and committed, and hard-working, and brave, and smart, and an overall truly lovely human being.

In short, be like Emma Puharic.

The Coupeville High School grad, who was a four-year player for the Wolf softball program before heading out into the adult world, is a bright, shining example of the best of what Cow Town can offer.

I worked with Emma for several years at Christopher’s on Whidbey, and knew her from before through my days at Videoville.

Waitressing in a high-volume, sometimes high-stress restaurant environment is one of the tougher jobs you will find.

With Christopher’s smack-dab in the heart of festival land, be it mussels, water, or arts ‘n crafts being celebrated, Emma was on the front line.

What is remarkable is she never bent, never broke, the rare person who could still be humming to herself, smile intact, after brutal shifts.

If people were kind to her, she was kind back to them.

But, if they were rude to her, she was … kind back to them.

Regardless of age, attitude, or the size of the possible tip, Emma listened, she had a kind word for all, and she hustled her rear off, never letting them see her sweat (or get pissed in public).

Almost universally, even the toughest customer left the restaurant with a smile after encountering her.

Then, after closing, when most of her coworkers would sit around and (rightfully) complain about the indignities of restaurant life, Emma would flash the ol’ megawatt smile, say “See you tomorrow,” and head out with a bounce in her step.

She had things to do, and places to be, and marinating in self-pity was never high on her list.

It is an attitude which has carried her far in her 28+ years on the planet.

Beloved by her CHS classmates, Wolf teammates, and anyone who ever worked with her, Emma has gone on to spread joy to every place she visits.

Her greatest impact may be on the students she taught while working in the Federal Way school system.

Back in 2016, Emma popped this up on Facebook and it remains one of the best posts to ever grace that social network:

I just got through to the toughest kid at my school, who every teacher and administrator dreads.

He now knows division and LIKES it.

I’d say today is a success.

Emma Puharic, changing lives and putting a smile on the face of the world since 1992.

That’s carried over to all aspects of her life, where she has been one of the most deeply-committed former Wolves when it comes to fighting for the equality of all.

Now, this is a sports blog (mostly), so when we induct Emma into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame today, it will officially be as a softball player.

Puharic, fourth from left in back row, during her senior season at CHS. (Shelli Trumbull photo)

She was an outfielder, one who brought a good bat and mitt to the game, but, more importantly, a great attitude.

Emma enjoyed her four years in the red and black, something captured when I interviewed her a few years after graduation for a “where are they now?” story she insisted didn’t really need to be written.

She agreed only after I told her the story was mainly for her former teammates, the young women who she played with, and held dear.

“I enjoyed being around my friends and getting the chance to get off-Island and travel with my teammates,” she said at the time. “I also liked meeting the younger girls each season that I am still friends with today.

“I’ve learned that it’s important to remember the friendships you’ve made through sports and high school.

“I still talk to most of my friends that I had in school and I’m so glad that we are all still close.”

As I mentioned above, Emma enters our Hall of Fame today, inducted as a softball player, but really for being a remarkable human being who just happened to play some ball back in the day.

After this, you’ll find her hanging around up at the top of the blog under the Legends tab.

Emma deserves far more — all the positive recognition in the world — and I hope she gets it every day from those around her.

For the moment, though, let’s be at the front of the line when it comes to telling her how awesome she is in our eyes.

Thank you, Emma, for being bold, for protecting others, for always looking for the positive in a flawed world.

You make the universe a better place.

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Coupeville’s Sebastian Wurzainer, here with sister Tia, is a valedictorian at Dartmouth. (Lisa Wurzrainer photo)

The kid’s alright.

Back in his Coupeville High School days, Sebastian Wurzrainer worked at the family restaurant, Christopher’s on Whidbey, while also finding time to be the world’s hardest-working soccer manager.

On game days, he would perch up in the old, bee-infested CHS press box, calling out plays and celebrating goals as the PA announcer.

Once or twice, his joy in honoring those who put the ball in the back of the net, regardless of whether they wore a Wolf uniform or not, got him some good-natured blowback from his classmates.

Sebastian … you can’t celebrate for the other team!!”

“Yes, yes, I’ll remember that next time,” Wurzrainer would respond, and then the next time the opposing team scored, he would bellow out “GOOOOOOAAAALLLL” once again, slight smile on his face.

Sebastian has never done anything halfway, and that’s a big reason he would land on any list of the smartest students to ever walk the hallways in Cow Town.

If you need any proof of that, just look to today’s graduation at Dartmouth College, where Wurzrainer was one of six valedictorians for the Class of 2020.

This ain’t no community college in Palookaville we’re talking about here.

It’s freakin’ Dartmouth, the cream of the Ivy League, the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the USA (thanks Wikipedia!), and a place where all the students are too smart to even think about using the word ain’t.

And now Wurzainer is walking out the door with a 4.0 career GPA, a degree in Film and Media Studies, and the goal of obtaining his Ph.D. and becoming a professor and researcher.

The guy who I once talked movies with in that bee-infested press box is bound for the MA program in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California, which is about as big-time as you can get in the field.

Sebastian came to Dartmouth with a plan to write and direct films professionally, but took a different route after a first-term film history course.

“I immediately found myself engrossed in the theoretical and historical aspects of film studies,” he wrote in his graduation note.

“In the intervening years, I have become increasingly interested in the way that films simultaneously reflect and shape the ideology and psychology of the cultures that produce and receive them.

“I had the opportunity to explore these ideas in depth in a senior thesis that examined how the human brain makes sense of editing in classical Hollywood films.”

Reading that takes me back to those press box days with him.

I was a video store lifer with no more video stores to live in, content to ramble on about cheesy, oddball musicals like Bugsy Malone and Shock Treatment.

Sebastian, at 16, was in a different world however, already breaking down serious cinema like Schindler’s List in a way which would have blown away film scholars.

One of us was content to flick dead bees out the open-air press box window, trying to hit the fans sitting below, while the other one of us was getting ready to take the Ivy League by storm.

Proud of you, Mr. Wurzrainer.

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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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