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Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Brian Williams, Big Wave Cafe

Brian Williams, co-owner of Big Wave Cafe in Manzanita, sticks to one philosophy: simple food, well-prepared.

Like Williams’ food philosophy, his beginnings as a chef were simple.

“I grew up learning to cook at my grandparent’s place down in Hebo,” Williams said. “They were fishing, hunting, and living off the land. I knew at a very young age I wanted to be a chef.”

In high school, Williams opted for cooking classes rather than wood or metal shop. He entered the dining industry right after graduation and went on a decades-long culinary journey that took him around the world.

With over 40 years in culinary education and dining industry under his belt, Williams has a wealth of experience to draw upon: owning restaurants in Portland and Sunriver, and working for The Benson Hotel and Red Lion Hotels. Eventually, he ended up running all operations for Le Cordon Bleu’s United States’ operations out of Chicago.

Though he retired from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008, the industry wasn’t quite done with him.

“We had a vacation home in Rockaway Beach and Carol would come eat at the Big Wave all the time,” he said. Those regular meals at the venerable Manzanita eatery led to discussions with former owner Marcie Russo, who was looking to sell.

Brian Williams loves bringing local seafood to the menu at Big Wave Cafe.

Carol Williams began prodding her husband to buy the place.

“I really didn’t want to do it, we fought about it all the way back to Chicago,” Williams said with a laugh.

Now heading into their eighth year at Big Wave Cafe, they couldn’t be happier: Brian is the head chef and Carol is in charge of pastries and desserts.

Simple food, well-prepared is more than Williams’ mantra: it’s their institutional philosophy.

“It sounds easy, but it’s really, really hard,” he said.

With so many local ingredient options available, Williams is happy to tap into those resources for his menu, including fish from Garibaldi and milk and eggs from Bennett Farms.

“I always use the freshest ingredients,” he said. “I’m proud of what we do.”

That pride comes through for Williams when he sees people enjoying good food, made from quality ingredients, being served to people who love what they do for a living.

“This is the last chapter of my book,” he said. “I want every plate that comes through that kitchen to be something I can be proud of.”

A Picture of Dan Haag
Dan Haag
Born and raised in the great white north of Minnesota, Dan Haag felt the pull of the north Oregon Coast in the early 90s. Finding that rain never needed to be shoveled, he married an Oregon girl and settled in Manzanita, where he works as director of the Manzanita Visitors Center. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of state and national publications. He spends his free time wandering the area’s many trails, supporting the Oregon wine and beer industry, perusing coastal bookstores, and chasing his black Labrador, Lilo, along the beach.
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