Gabriele Kessler: The Accidental Butcher

Bavarian Meats Store Manager Gabrielle aka Gabby

Gabriele “Gabby” Kessler, a longtime fixture behind the counter at Bavarian Meats, never set out to be a butcher. A bit ironic, given that she recently stepped up to replace Anna, the store’s previous manager, who moved back to Austria. “It was an accident,” she proclaims. But judging from the pleasant banter she trades with her staff and the upbeat attitude permeating the store, it was a happy one. So how did this accident occur?

Her husband is the culprit, she says: “My husband was shopping here at the time. I’m not a great shopper. I was a realtor at the time, and when the market went downhill I was used to having a little bit more income. I had more time, so I went shopping with my husband. I said, “I can come with you. I’ll go into Seattle. Might be a fun time.” The lady who was then the manager said, “We need someone badly here. Do you want to help out?” I said, “Sure,” and guess what? That was almost eight years ago!”

Though she spent 20 years in real estate before coming to work at Bavarian Meats, she was no stranger to the meat cutters’ trade. Her mother ran a butcher shop in Monheim, the small town outside of Düsseldorf where she grew up. She also spent 6 to 8 weeks nearly every summer after the age of 15 visiting friends in a tiny village in France, where the youngsters were put to work in the town’s lone restaurant. There, she did a bit of everything, from scrubbing floors to waiting tables to cooking, encountering plenty of delicious charcuterie in the process. As if that wasn’t enough meat cred, she also helped out at her husband’s family butcher shop in Düsseldorf, which was a much larger operation than her mother’s.

Photograph of Düsseldorf township

She says that when she took the job, she “knew about meats and sausage already,” but she adds that “being married to my husband who is, like, Mr. Sausage, helps. My husband is one of those guys who is in the jungle in Mexico looking for a German restaurant.” She likes to joke that he pushed her to take the job mostly for the meat perks.

Given her long history with the trade, it makes sense that she likes working at Bavarian so much. Asked what making the switch back to slicing meat was like, she says, “It’s more immediate. Real estate takes a lot of patience, and the older you get, the less patience you have!” And of course, she loves food. Asked if she ever gets tired of German food, she replies with a resounding “No!”

However, she does admit, “I do appreciate other foods. I like food. I hate the term ‘foodie,’ but I love food!” Her favorite non-German cuisine? Asian, because it’s fast and hot, whereas German food is often “a slower affair.” When she’s not eating at Bavarian, she’ll frequent the Thai restaurant next to the fish throwers for some vegetarian phad thai.

Bacon on a stick

But usually she’s eating at Bavarian. “I have to maintain these hips,” she jokes, smiling broadly. “Rule here is you gotta have at least a good keister to work behind the counter. Never trust a skinny cook!” Her favorite meats? The Kassler—a boneless smoked pork loin—and headcheese. She also admits to being unable to resist the pungent aroma of freshly baked pretzel rolls, a completely understandable weakness.

When she isn’t at Bavarian Meats, which is rare, she somehow finds time to garden—her favorite flower is the sunflower—and run a bed-and-breakfast with her husband out of their home in Duvall. The food there is, of course, very German. “We try to make it like an extension of Bavarian Meats,” she says. Her secret to balancing it all? “Just get up early!”

Her other motto is similarly simple and direct, and a very appropriate note to end on: “Know when to shut up!”