Fossil’s Royal Stag chef Aly Sedlock feels at home in Wheeler County
Aly Sedlock says that she knew from a young age that she would either live in a big city or out in the country. “Anything in the middle sounded boring,” she says.
Originally from Salem, food has been a constant in Aly’s life and her childhood memories revolve around her grandmother cooking everything from scratch and her love of canning.
When her grandmother wasn’t around, Aly’s dad was the main cook at home and she enjoyed eating his food and they often cooked together.
But throughout high school, becoming a chef was not on Aly’s radar.
“I thought I was going to be a business person for a long time,” she says.
Aly moved to Portland and says that she started to become attracted to the lifestyle of cooking and working in a restaurant. But it was 2008 and with the economy in a recession, Aly had a hard time landing a job. So, she enrolled in culinary school and then began working in restaurants in Lake Oswego and Oregon City.
Then, Aly says, she met a boy and moved to Dufur. “I loved it – I loved the lifestyle,” Aly recalls. “I worked on a goji berry farm and bottle-fed calves and hucked hay.”
While in Dufur, Aly bartended at the Past Time – the local watering hole adored by locals and travelers. After a couple of years, Aly moved to Grass Valley and began cooking again at the Grass Valley Market.
When Evergreen State Holdings LLC setup the hemp production site in Grass Valley, the owner, Ted Swindell bought the Grass Valley store so his employees could have a place to eat. It also marked a turning point for Aly, who was back in the kitchen and working with her partner, who managed the market. Aly excelled in the kitchen and felt the creative juices flowing.
“I had heard about the Royal Stag and I liked the vibe.” – Aly Sedlock, chef at the Royal Stag
But then Aly had her daughter and decided to stay at home with her – though she did start a catering company and cooked for select events and clients. When her daughter turned three, Aly was ready to get back to work.
“I had heard about the Royal Stag and I liked the vibe,” Aly says.
The timing couldn’t have been better for owner Shawn Hawkins, who had recruited a chef from Florida when the restaurant opened but saw him leave due to housing limitations in the area. Hawkins says that in retrospect, the chef wasn’t the right fit for the place and that it was a blessing in disguise after Aly came along.
“It’s rare that you have a chef, an honest to goodness trained chef in a town this size. I hope people recognize that and appreciate that.” – Shawn Hawkins, owner of the Royal Stag
Hawkins had paired down the original menu before Aly started but says that she has been given creative freedom and that she has his complete trust.
“It’s rare that you have a chef, an honest to goodness trained chef in a town this size,” Hawkins said. “I hope people recognize that and appreciate that.”
Aly likes to cook with local and seasonal ingredients and with Hawkins, has created a strong partnership with Painted Hills Natural Beef and with the Davis family, who has an expansive garden near Service Creek.
“I was in Service Creek a lot this summer,” Aly says. “I would go over almost every day. They would stock their shelf and I would take almost everything else.”
Aly’s arrival gave Hawkins the time he needed to concentrate on finishing the bar, which he opened on New Year’s Eve. The bar has a separate menu and there are two distinct parts of the restaurant – one that is finer dining in the front and one that caters to the bar crowd in the back. Hawkins is also working to get the ten-barrel brewing operation set up in the adjacent building to the south.
“I was in Service Creek a lot this summer. I would go over almost every day. They would stock their shelf and I would take almost everything else.” – Aly Sedlock, chef at the Royal Stag
While staffing has been a continual challenge, Hawkins says that he is relieved to have a real chef in the kitchen and that Aly is the perfect fit, though he recognizes that she needs help and that more kitchen staff are needed.
At Hawkins’ first restaurant – Tiger Town in Mitchell, employees came to town as visitors and fell in love with the area, and then took jobs. Still, Hawkins had to buy a house for them to live in due to a lack of housing.
“I’m definitely glad that life has brought me in this direction. I love gardening, I love animals, I love being out in the middle of nowhere and our family life. And I love working hard and earning it.” – Aly Sedlock, chef at the Royal Stag
Aly is hopeful that someone who has a passion for food and wants to cook will come along, even if they don’t have any experience.
“No experience is just fine,” she says, “I’ll take no experience because I can train somebody how we need to cook here.”
Regardless, Aly feels like she is putting down roots and says that she is here for the long haul.
“I’m definitely glad that life has brought me in this direction,” Aly says. “I love gardening, I love animals, I love being out in the middle of nowhere and our family life. And I love working hard and earning it.”
Hawkins agrees and says that unlike the previous two restaurants at the site, he is not “just passing through” and he is committed to making it work at the Royal Stag.
“I own property here – my family and life is here, this has to work because we aren’t going anywhere.”