At last month’s funeral for Frank Machado, the longtime owner and chef of Delhi’s Elegant Bull restaurant, his daughter Michelle delivered the eulogy for her father.
At the end, he concluded his speech with, “Dad would like me to say that the Elegant Cow is open Wednesday through Sunday.”
The assembly laughed because, yes, it was absolutely true.
“Promote the business at all costs,” Michelle said during a recent interview at the restaurant, located at 9666 Stephens St. (take the South Avenue exit from Highway 99).
And that’s what the Machado family does … promote business at all costs. They want customers to know that Elegant Bull is open for business, Wednesday through Sunday.
“My dad is the face and voice of the restaurant,” says Michelle. “Dan is an introvert.”
Dan is Frank’s son, the seventh of eight children, and is now head chef at Elegant Bull. And, really, how could he be anything but an introvert?
“He was always yelling at me to get back in the kitchen,” Dan recalled with a laugh.
The fact is that Dan has been the head chef for several years.
“He does 90 percent of the cooking,” says Michelle, Frank’s youngest daughter. “People say they’re not coming back now that dad’s gone.”
That prompted Karen Machado, Frank’s widow, to ask, “Who do they think they are here cooking dinner while Frank is out front (BS-ing) with customers?”
Dan may not have his father’s gift for conversation, but he can hold his own in the kitchen, cooking traditional American food.
“Old fashioned coffee?” And guessed when asked to describe the type of cuisine served at Elegant Bull.
Michelle, who sat in a nearby booth tending to the restaurant’s various social media accounts, offered her assessment.
“Not fat free,” he said with a grin.
Frank David Machado, who died on Veterans Day, was born in Hilmar on May 6, 1931 — the same day as Willie Mays, a fact he was happy about. After serving in the US Navy, he settled in Santa Clara but later 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 didn’t suit him. In 1989, he purchased the building and land that is now Elegant Bull.
“He had taste,” said Karen, who married Frank on February 29, 1976. “He could taste a meal and tell you what was in it. We went to Europe in the ’90s and visited 11 countries. He came back with recipes that are still on our menu.”
A recipe that Dan has mastered over the years.
“He started washing dishes at the age of 10,” recalls Karen. “Then he was a busboy, then a waiter, then a bartender, then a cook.”
Michelle, the family joker, chimed in again from a booth nearby.
“I’m here just for eat dinner,” he said, grinning again.
“He taught me almost everything,” finished Dan.
“But it has to work,” added Karen. “We discussed it. I asked them if they wanted to go ahead with it or close the door. As long as we break even, we will remain open. But if we start going into a hole, I can’t afford it.”
Numbers for this Christmas season have been off, but families expect that to increase on 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 was in May 2020 during the height of the COVID epidemic.
“We stayed open all the time during the pandemic,” said Karen. “Frank is in contact with the health department every day to make sure we can stay open.”
The Elegant Bull — with a team of three drivers and five workers — delivers a full meal, complete with main course, vegetables, soup, salad, beans and bread.
Frank worked his last shift at Elegant Bull on Oct. 1. A day later he walked into the hospital under his own power with fluid in his chest. The family was told he would probably be released in a few days, but his condition worsened.
“He’s in la-la land,” said Karen. “He’s awake but he’s really not there.”
Finally, Frank rose and was released on October 31. But a week later, his pacemaker sent a distress signal and he was rushed to hospital again. He died four days later.
“I just hugged him and told him I loved him,” Karen recalled, 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 an experience felt not only in Delhi, but throughout Merced and Stanislaus counties.
In fact, the San Francisco 49ers sent flowers upon hearing of Machado’s departure, 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 nestled in a small Central Valley community.
As Frank would like you to know, Elegant Bull is open Wednesday through Sunday.