At the funeral service last month for Frank Machado, the longtime owner and chef of Elegant Bull restaurant in Delhi, his daughter Michelle delivered a eulogy for her father.
At the end she concluded her remarks with, “Dad would want me to say that the Elegant Bull is open Wednesday through Sunday.”
The assemblage laughed because, well, it was absolutely true.
“Promote the business at all costs,” says Michelle said during a recent interview at the restaurant, located at 9666 Stephens St. (take the South Avenue exit off Highway 99).
And that’s what the Machado family is doing … promoting the business at all costs. They want customers to know that the Elegant Bull is open for business, Wednesday through Sunday.
“My dad was the face and voice of the restaurant,” said Michelle. “Dan is a total introvert.”
Dan is Frank’s son, the seventh of eight children, and now the head chef at the Elegant Bull. And, really, how could he be anything but an introvert?
“He always yelled at me to get back in kitchen,” Dan remembers with a chuckle.
Fact of the matter is that Dan has been the head chef for several years.
“He did 90 percent of the cooking,” said Michelle, the youngest of Frank’s children. “People say they won’t come back now that Dad is gone.”
That prompts Karen Machado, Frank’ widow, to ask, “Who do they think was back here cooking dinner when Frank was out front (BS-ing) with customers?”
Dan may not possess his father’s gift of gab, but he can hold his own in the kitchen, cooking traditional American fare.
“Old-fashioned?” Dan guesses when asked to describe the type of cuisine served at the Elegant Bull.
Michelle, sitting in a nearby booth tending to the restaurant’s various social media accounts, offers her assessment.
“Not fat-free,” she says with a grin.
Frank David Machado, who passed away on Veterans Day, was born in Hilmar on May 6, 1931 — the exact same day as Willie Mays, a fact in which he delighted. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he settled in Santa Clara but then moved back to Merced County to be closer to his family. For a while, he farmed 30 acres of land in Stevinson, but soon realized the ups and downs of farming did not suit him. In 1989, he bought the building and land that is now the Elegant Bull.
“He had the tastebuds,” said Karen, who married Frank on Feb. 29, 1976. “He could taste a dish one time and tell you what was in it. We went to Europe in the ‘90s and visited 11 countries. He came back with recipes that we still have on our menu.”
Recipes that Dan has mastered over the years.
“He started out washing dishes at 10 years old,” recalls Karen. “Then he was a busboy, then a waiter, then bartender, then cook.”
Michelle, the family comedian, chimes in again from her nearby booth.
“I’m just here to eat dinner,” she says, flashing another grin.
“He taught me most everything,” finishes Dan.
“But it has to work,” adds Karen. “We discussed it. I asked them if they wanted to keep it going or close the doors. As long we break even, we’ll keep it open. But if we start going into the hole, I can’t afford that.”
Numbers for this Christmas season have been off, but the family expects that it will pick up for New Year’s Eve, traditionally one of their busiest nights of the year.
Their busiest? That would be Mother’s Day. And the busiest Mother’s Day ever was in May 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic.
“We stayed open the entire time during the pandemic,” says Karen. “Frank was in touch with the health department every single day to make sure we could stay open.”
The Elegant Bull — with a team of three drivers and five employees — delivered full meals, complete with entree, vegetables, soup, salad, beans and bread.
Frank worked his last shift at the Elegant Bull on Oct. 1. A day later he walked into the hospital on his own power with fluid in his chest. The family was told he’d likely be released in a few days, but his condition worsened.
“He was in la-la land,” says Karen. “He was awake but he really wasn’t there.”
Eventually, Frank rallied and was released on Oct. 31. But a week later, his pacemaker sent out a distress signal and he was rushed to the hospital once more. He died four days later.
“I just wrapped my arms around him and told him I loved him,” recalls Karen, fighting back tears. “I didn’t even look at him. I just said, ‘He’s gone, isn’t he?’ and the nurse said, ‘Yes.’”
It’s a passing that was felt not just in Delhi, but throughout Merced and Stanislaus counties.
In fact, the San Francisco 49ers sent flowers upon hearing of the passing of Machado, a longtime season-ticket holder.
Frank Machado may be gone, but his larger-than-life legacy lives on, through his recipes, through his family and through a restaurant tucked away in a small Central Valley community.
As Frank would want you to know, the Elegant Bull is open Wednesday through Sunday.