WESTON — Tim Hughes and Pam Giger can’t decide whether it was an accident or fate that brought them together, but they’re leaning toward the latter.
The likelihood of the two finding each other and falling in love seemed slim. They lived on different continents, Hughes in Scotland and Giger in the United States.
Fast forward and Hughes and Giger are in love, living together in Weston and running a restaurant called the Upper Crust Weston. Hughes calls the place their “accidental bistro” and their love “a surprise gift.”
The couple’s story unfolded this way:
Hughes, an Englishman, grew up near Liverpool and served for 24 years in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, a calvary regiment with mostly Scots, but also some Brits. Joining as a teenager, he chose the Guards in part because as a little boy he had war-gamed with plastic horses and soldiers from the storied military regiment. After retiring from the military, he worked as security supervisor at an airplane plant at Scotland’s Glasgow Prestwick Airport. In 2014, he retired from that job.
About 4,400 miles away, Giger worked as the director of a sleep medicine center at a hospital in Port Townsend, Washington. Along the way, the mother of four lost her husband to cancer.
Several years ago, Giger, an amateur photographer, joined a Facebook photography group in which people comment on each other’s photos. She submitted photographs taken in Washington, but quickly learned only photos taken in Scotland were welcomed. The group, in fact, is called Scotland As Seen Through A Lens. Oops, Giger thought, embarrassed. Though she has lots of Scottish in her family tree, she had never even been to Scotland.
Hughes, a member of the group, Facebook messaged Giger and told her, “I think your photos are lovely.” She messaged him back. A pen pal relationship ensued.
“We corresponded via Facebook for about a year,” Hughes said.
Hughes finally traveled to the U.S. to meet Giger a few years ago. They fell in love — the instantaneous, head-over-heels variety. Hughes moved to Port Townsend.
Giger retired in early 2018 and the couple moved to Giger’s hometown of Weston near her son, parents and all five of her siblings. They bought a house on Main Street and started to live the retired life — or at least that was the initial plan.
One day, Hughes started selling Giger’s bread and later pies and other baked goods from a table outside their front door, then served sandwiches from a table inside. Their living room slowly evolved into a restaurant complete with a liquor license. Now, the Upper Crust serves lunch, a four-course dinner and high tea.
On a recent afternoon, Hughes donned a kilt and white chef’s coat and bustled around the dining room with a bottle of champagne and a pot of tea, charming his guests with his wit and soft English accent. About 18 people filled the tables, sipping tea with clotted cream and nibbling on dainty cakes, crustless sandwiches and scones. This was high tea, which happens the first Sunday of each month. Some of the guests wore fancy hats for the occasion.
In the kitchen, Giger pulled more scones from the oven. While she bakes the cakes and other goodies in advance, the guests prefer the scones warm and steaming. There are three waves of scones: the first regular, the second sweet and the third savory with melted butter and rosemary.
The couple serves lunch four days a week and dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. The menu isn’t Scottish per se. Giger said the dishes have a United Kingdom influence, reflecting Hughes’ time living in England and Scotland and also Germany.
Hughes, a divorcee, learned to cook for himself and his two children after subscribing to cooking magazines. Before that, he said, his only culinary experience was making sandwiches for the guys on his tank crew in the Scots Royal Dragoon Guard. Hughes, however, is a quick learner.
At the Upper Crust, lunch offerings include beef cottage pie, chicken pot pie, burgers, chicken salad sandwiches and a trio of salads. Dinner (only on Friday and Saturday nights with a reservation) is pan-seared salmon, beef tri-tip with garlic and rosemary, pork loin with apple and cranberry stuffing and pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes. Diners sit in a room decorated with the Scottish flag, a map of Scotland and a photo of the Castle Stalker, the ancestral home of Giger’s family.
The rookie restauranteurs say they are bowled over by the positive public response to the restaurant. Both Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews are glowing. A cadre of regulars is growing. Diners travel from Walla Walla, La Grande, Pendleton and all points in between. Recently, the couple added a creekside deck outside to accommodate more guests.
At the tea, Ben and Kelsey Dill, of Walla Walla, sampled the sandwiches and cakes and chatted animatedly with table companions they had only just met. Ben, a firefighter, bit into a savory scone and got a dreamy look on his face as his wife laughed at him.
“That’s out of control,” he said of the taste.
Hughes and Giger credit their customers for their popularity.
“We have the best customers on earth,” Giger said. “They encourage us. They want us to succeed.”
She laughed thinking of the night she cut her thumb while washing dishes. Two diners jumped into action, one finishing the dishes and the other serving cake.
Another customer borrowed Hughes’s chef coat and thoughtfully embroidered a thistle, the national emblem of Scotland. Others bring in fresh produce unbidden.
Some days, Giger can’t believe how things have played out. She has found true love “at this time of life” and the restaurant developed almost organically.
“It was never our intention to do anything other than retire here,” she said.
“This is a hobby and passion that’s become much more,” Hughes said. “It started with bread.”