Jake Muellenbach has cooked on Mother’s Day for 28 years, but the chef-owner of Shady Beach Grille on Big Stone Lake says, “2020 is... Kitchen Connects Jake Muellenbach and His Mom

Jake Muellenbach has cooked on Mother’s Day for 28 years, but the chef-owner of Shady Beach Grille on Big Stone Lake says, “2020 is one for the books.” It’s also one for the box. This year, you couldn’t take your mom to Shady Beach, but you could take Shady Beach to your mom. Many a lucky mom opened a beautifully decorated box this Sunday to discover a fresh and tasty brunch tucked inside. There was even strawberry cheesecake.

Jake says, “My family and I decorated the brunch boxes all week and we did our best to put love in each one.” He knows only the best is good enough for your mom, because that’s what he wants for his mom.

He says, “My mom and dad have helped me so much. I really owe everything to them. When my wife, Heidi, and I purchased Shady Beach 19 years ago, my mom pitched in in the kitchen and my dad greeted the guests and played host.”

“My mom, DiAnn, has been standing beside me in the kitchen every Mother’s Day but this one. I guess it took a pandemic for her to get a Mother’s Day off.”

In the kitchen, though, they couldn’t be more opposite. “She is structured and uses recipes, and I’m more of a free spirit. I don’t bake, but her cookies are perfect. At least, they are to me. I think she missed her calling.”

“I always remember Mom telling me no matter what you do, do it the best you can.” She also most likely gave him his first cooking lesson. “I fixed a grilled cheese when I was about 10.”

Jake’s first cooking job was at Trevett’s Cafe in Milbank.  He says, “I have so many great memories of working there, I think I could write a book.  Jim Trevett took me under his wing and instilled in me how to make a dish look as good as it tastes.  He took a lot of pride in putting out great home cooked food.”

Before purchasing Shady Beach, Jake worked at a restaurant in Rapid City under Jeff Butler, or as his patrons called him, Chef Jeff.  Jake said, “he taught me that cooking isn’t on a page or in a book, it’s in you.  He gave me lots of freedom to create and I owe a lot to him.”

He continued, “When I think about it there have been so many people that have given me their time and attention to teaching me the art of cooking.  Life is funny when you look back and reflect and remember all of the little details about people and how they have all helped me be who I am.”

His mother is certainly one of them. DiAnn showed up at Shady Beach every week for 15 years to help clean the kitchen and wash the windows. “My mom is an amazing person. She always puts others’ needs in front of her own.” These days, she has fewer responsibilities, but when she heads to the job, she also has a shorter commute. “My mom and dad moved next door to us last year. Dad and I remodeled the house and we love having them so close.”

But DiAnn is not the only amazing mother at the restaurant. Heidi, also works hand in hand with Jake and is mom to the the couple’s two children — Hattie, 16 and Will, 10. Jake says, “Hattie has been experimenting in the kitchen for quite a while, and she has been cooking with me every day since the pandemic. Hattie has been my savior as she always looks at the good side of life and shares it with everyone she meets. Will is still feeling out cooking. I think he might be more of a front of the house kinda guy, but he will find his way. I actually went to college to record music. I have a deep love of music…listening, playing, and recording.”

“But, at age 23, Heidi and I moved our stuff into Heidi’s parents’ basement and lived there for a several months while we tried to secure the financing to buy Shady Beach. We had only $700 in our checking account and a business plan. We talked with quite a few banks. Eventually, it all ironed out, and for the last 19 years we have presented a Grand Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet where we served over 400 people. This year, we won’t reach that number, but it’s not about the quantity, for us its about the quality, and we hope that is what our guests go away remembering.”

“We’ve lived above a restaurant almost our entire married lives, and I sometimes wonder how many other people live in their restaurants. It’s not something you run into much anymore. We find living where we work is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we can just walk downstairs to work. On the other hand, it’s hard to separate our work time from our personal time.”

“Last Saturday evening, Heidi and I watched the sun set over the lake. It’s something we’ve never been able to do on a Saturday until recently. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Where has the time gone?’ Sometimes we take for granted the beauty right outside our door. It seems we have dedicated our life to letting others enjoy the food and the view, and we have forgotten to enjoy it ourselves. I guess you could say that was one good thing that has come from the pandemic.”

The Mother’s Day brunch boxes sold out early, but you can still get delicious carryout every Tuesday through Saturday. Choose from a selection of Take & Bake meals including Chicken Alfredo, smoked salmon, and more. Or shop the Shady Beach Butcher Shoppe for ribeyes, filet mignon, and smoked slab bacon. Add artisan dinner rolls or cinnamon brioche from the Bake Shoppe and chocolate chunk, oatmeal, or old fashioned ginger cookies from the Sweet Shoppe.

Call Shady Beach Grille at 605.432.9867.

Staff Writer

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