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This former Olympian flew to Eugene to open a luxurious seafood restaurant for less than 10 days


If he have been 20 years youthful, Michael Stember would have been in Eugene, competing on the World Athletics Championships.

As an alternative, the previous Olympian flew in to open a restaurant.

Stember, 44, a former Olympian who lives in Washington D.C. and owns a bar in Brooklyn, has a facet hustle internet hosting spontaneous sushi pop-ups, globe-hopping occasions the place he carves entire fish into sashimi for a well-heeled clientele. In the event you’re a cryptocurrency fanatic with a $25,000 meals funds seeking to throw a celebration in Davos, Stember could be amongst your first calls.

“I simply knew I needed to be part of this,” says Stember, standing over a 60-pound slab of tuna. “When the World Championships popped up in Eugene, I noticed I hadn’t actually let the neighborhood of runners know what I do. I sort of disappeared.”

As eating places throughout Eugene enhance staffing for what is anticipated to be 10 of the busiest days of the 12 months, Stember is conducting his personal model of “Prime Chef’s” Restaurant Wars, opening a brief restaurant from scratch with a workforce of workers he solely met final week.

“It was a possibility to contribute,” Stember says. “As a runner I do know what it’s prefer to undergo this stuff, huge monitor meets, and never know the place to assemble. The Wild Duck (Cafe) would get actually busy, and after that the place do you go if you happen to’re a neighborhood runner and wish to be round individuals?”

Diners at former Olympian Michael Stember's Family Meal pop-up, found behind Whitburger, 298 Blair Blvd. in Eugene.

Diners at former Olympian Michael Stember’s Household Meal pop-up, discovered behind Whitburger, 298 Blair Blvd. in Eugene.Michael Russell | The Oregonian

On Friday, Stember was chatting with employees dressed principally in white within the courtyard subsequent to Whitburger, the Whiteaker neighborhood burger store internet hosting the pop-up. Within the yard, white tablecloths lined a half dozen just lately acquired tables. Patio lights hung from the timber. The tuna lay on a desk within the again, lined in aluminum foil.

Stember discovered to cook dinner at his mom’s facet, however his obsession with high-end seafood didn’t start till he attended Stanford College, the place he skilled below future College of Oregon coach and present USA Observe & Area president Vin Lananna. Dismayed by the “wholesome” meals choices provided to scholar athletes, he started searching for out high sushi eating places within the space, ultimately “spending most of my Pell Grant” at a high-end Palo Alto sushi store. Craving top quality fish with out the pomp, circumstance or worth, he determined to take issues into his personal arms, convincing a supply man to drop a fish off on to his dorm, the place Stember says he started making ready protein-rich meals for his fellow athletes.

Stember, who retains a runner’s body 13 years after retiring from the game, believes his Stanford expertise hasn’t modified a lot for novice athletes. Even top-level monitor and subject applications in the US stay behind the instances in terms of vitamin, he says, serving meals he in comparison with “placing unleaded gasoline in a race automotive.”

“Runners prefer to boast that they’ll eat something,” Stember says. “And that’s true, within the sense that you’ll look match and engaging. However that doesn’t imply you’ll be working at peak efficiency.”

Increasing on the gasoline metaphor, Stember compares diners consuming a steak to the diesel truck he’s borrowing for this journey, one which requires an extension twine to begin and miles of highway to stand up to high velocity. Uncooked fish, alternatively, offers a runner speedy power and application, he claims.

Stember has been fascinated with doing a Eugene pop-up for the reason that occasion was initially deliberate for 2021. However as of some months in the past, he nonetheless wanted an area. He known as Pat Tyson, Steve Prefontaine’s former school roommate and shut good friend, who gave him some native contacts, ultimately connecting him with Whitburger proprietor Natalie Sheild and Pondering Tree Spirits co-founder Emily Jensen, who’s offering cocktails for the pop-up.

Salmon bruschetta on a plate from former Olympian Michael Stember's Family Meal pop-up.

Salmon bruschetta from former Olympian Michael Stember’s Household Meal pop-up.Michael Russell | The Oregonian

For Stember, cooking and operating are each about leisure, whether or not it’s revving up the gang after an ideal efficiency within the 1,500 meters (his greatest end, 3:35, stays a Stanford file, equal to a 3:52 mile) or dropping off a tostada topped with glistening crimson tuna scraped from the bone with a spoon. His pop-up feels much less like a restaurant, extra like a seat-of-the-pants ceremonial dinner, with Stember sending out plates of sashimi, salmon bruschetta, steak tacos or sea urchin and saltine crackers every time they occur to be prepared.

As we discuss, two monitor followers in Crew USA caps method the desk after recognizing Stember, desirous to reminisce about a few of his signature runs. That they had already ordered burgers and fries from Whitburger, however Stember asks in the event that they wish to strive some uncooked salmon anyway, pausing his butchering to slice a couple of items of the fish’s fatty stomach, place them in entrance of the lads, pour on a drizzle of gluten-free soy sauce and encourage them to “choose it up together with your paws.”

Stember’s Household Meal pop-up will run from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly from now till July 24 within the courtyard at Whitburger, 298 Blair Blvd. Omakase meals can be found in $50, $100 or $200 “tranches,” as Stember calls them, with some dishes out there a la carte. Reservations can be found by emailing michael@michaelstember.com.

— Michael Russell, mrussell@oregonian.com @tdmrussell



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