Oktoberfest celebrations overseas may have been canceled due to the pandemic once again this year, but here in the states, our version of the celebration carries on.
In the small west coast town of Dunedin, a local German Bavarian fine dining restaurant called Bon Appétit has spent the last month serving all the German delights on their menu, which they revise once a year solely for Oktoberfest.
“We are known for quality. European influence food and European service,” co-owner Karl Riedle told us.
Chef Karl Riedle opened the restaurant with his partner, Peter Krueziger in 1976 after realizing there wasn’t much for German fare in the small beach town.
Riedle was born 40 miles south of Munich and started as an apprentice at 13, cooking in some of the finest houses in Germany before coming to the U.S.
Across the dining room where we sat, I met Shaira Wester.
The hostess with the mostest.
“That’s what I hear the mostest,” she said with a huge grin.
“I was born in Rosenheim. Most people don’t even know where that is,” she told me.
She came to the U.S. 9 years ago with one child born in Germany and has since had another child here.
“I’ve alway wanted to experience some form of heritage. Right now I’m just the weirdo who walks around the house and serves weird dishes and occasionally speaks in an odd gibberish language,” Wester said.
Outside on the deck, Sabine Helten walks around checking on bartenders, patrons, and makes sure everybody has what they need.
“I was born in a little teeny tiny town called Zweibrüken, it basically consists of two bridges,” she told me.
Sabine is one of the front of the house managers and right-hand man to the general manager.
“When we left was the last time I was there. We had plans to go there last year and COVID happened,” she said.
Shaira is in the same spot.
“it’s just been too difficult with everything that’s been going on nowadays. It would just be really nice to say that I could be home,” she said with a long sigh.
Back in the kitchen, Karl shows me how he prepares a Bavarian pretzel.
“Normally I go home every year but unfortunately the last two years got messed up,” he told me.
For these three people who came from the same place all at different times, Oktoberfest means so much more than what we as Americans think of it.
“It means community. Harvest. Family. Being thankful for what you had,” Wester told me.
“It means coming together and it means a culmination of the whole year,” Sabine said.
That’s what just being in the restaurant has done for them. Even though they both consider the U.S. home, Germany is still “home” and Bon Appétit has offered them that solace.
All the feels of Oktoberfest
As they rattle off some of the special things that make Oktoberfest what it is you realize that it all ties together and brings them right where they need to be.
“That’s what Bon Appétit was able to provide. I’m home. This is as close to home as I’m going to get and they are not rid of me anytime soon,” Shaira said with a smile.
Chef Karl Riedle has a plane ticket for November to head home for the first time in two years. Shaira is planning a trip next summer for her family and Sabine is looking forward to celebrating her birthday next year back in Germany.