Bugaboo to continue legacy under new ownership

By Jacob Osborne EBS Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – On July 1, Big Sky’s Bugaboo Café will become the proud memory of one chef, and the promising future of another.

Paul and Kim Cameron, longtime owners of the beloved restaurant, are selling the Bugaboo after more than a decade of operation. In addition to the logistics of passing on their business, however, the Camerons are leaving behind a legacy that is close to their hearts – when they first opened the café in 2004, they were fulfilling a shared dream.

“We had always wanted to own our own restaurant, so we just decided to jump into it,” Paul said. “We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place.”

Paul Cameron served as the Bugaboo’s co-owner and head chef for more than a decade. PHOTO BY JOSEPH T. O’CONNOR

Paul Cameron served as the Bugaboo’s co-owner and head chef for more than a decade. PHOTO BY JOSEPH T. O’CONNOR

A decade later, Paul still clocks in every morning as the Bugaboo’s head chef, and plans to cook until the last day of June. Though Kim is now working full time to develop the eatery at Big Sky Town Center’s Roxy’s Market, she has remained heavily involved in the management and upkeep of the café. The couple is stepping away from the business the same way they first approached it – as a team.

“All good things come to an end,” said Kim, who cooked alongside Paul at the Yellowstone Club before they both left to open the Bugaboo.

Identifying the restaurant’s next owner was a personal and meaningful matter for the Camerons.

“I would feel weird if I had to give it to somebody who wouldn’t really appreciate what we’ve done here; what we’ve accomplished,” Paul said.

Fortunately for him, there was an heir-apparent working a brief stint in northwest Montana who already knew and loved the Bugaboo, and was looking for a reason to return. When the Camerons decided to sell, Geoff Calef was the first person they called.

Calef fell in love with the restaurant business 23 years ago while washing dishes in a Pennsylvania café, and has worked in kitchens ever since. He moved to Big Sky in 2008 and cooked at the Bugaboo for five years before spending the last two at the Whitefish Lake Restaurant, some 350 miles north.

When Calef’s friends and former employers offered him the chance to move back and carry on what has become a Big Sky institution, he took it.

Kim Cameron and her husband Paul (at left) will officially turn over ownership of the Bugaboo Café on July 1 to their friend and former employee, Geoff Calef. PHOTO BY JACOB OSBORNE

Kim Cameron and her husband Paul (at left) officially turned over ownership of the Bugaboo Café on July 1 to their friend and former employee, Geoff Calef. PHOTO BY JACOB OSBORNE

“It’s nice to know [the restaurant] is going into good hands,” Kim said.

While the new chef suggested that his personal culinary influence would emerge over time, he’s not trying to fix anything at the Bugaboo that isn’t broken.

“We’re definitely going to be keeping the menu,” Calef said. He ensured that classics like the Southwestern, the Ranchero, the Hot Turkey, and – his personal favorite – the Corned Beef Hash wouldn’t be going anywhere. “I’m going to be concentrating on keeping those [dishes] good.”

As July approaches, Calef is mostly trying to refresh his memory. He can be found each day in the Bugaboo’s kitchen chopping, frying and plating next to his old friend, Paul. In a fitting changing of the guard, the two chefs will be filling orders side by side until Paul works his final shift on June 30.

Though the outgoing owner has job offers from several restaurants, he says, he’s waiting until July to decide what’s next. Calef, on the other hand, will be working for himself for the foreseeable future.

“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to own my own restaurant,” Calef said. “It’s good to be home.”

While July 1 marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Bugaboo Café, the eatery will continue to be what it always has been – a dream come true. For now, the only thing changing is the dreamer.