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(Lander, WY) – Now in its 11th year in Lander, The Middle Fork restaurant has officially transitioned ownership as of Tuesday, September 6.
Jenna Ackerman, original co-founder and owner of the restaurant since it opened on May 26, 2012, recently announced the decision on her personal social media page.
Ackerman has been in the food service industry since she was fourteen and initially moved to Lander for the climbing, but soon found herself working at the various bars in restaurants in town.
“I did my Coalter Block time,” Ackerman joked about working at the Cowfish and Lander Bar before deciding to open the restaurant, combining these skills with a Business Management degree to help serve breakfast, brunch and lunch to the people of Lander for the last decade.
In addition to serving the many locals, travellers and everyone in between who frequented the restaurant, Ackerman shared that politicians, world-famous climbers, and even a few celebrities like Matthew Fox from ‘Lost’ and ‘Party of Five’ would also stop in for a bite to eat or cup of coffee.
In terms of personal success stories, Ackerman commented on all the small (and big) things she has learned out of necessity while in the ownership position, ranging from fixing espresso machines to figuring out how the dishwasher machine works.
“If you’re willing to show up, explore yourself, and explore those issues, you should do well, but you have to be legitimately willing to do that work.”
As for her fondest memories, Ackerman cited evening events the restaurant would host such as First Fridays, where artists commissioned to display their work on the walls of the restaurant and refreshments would be served at the openings.
Dress rehearsal, class reunions, and birthday parties all helped Ackerman connect even further with members of the community, such as restaurant regular Randy Turner, who Ackerman commented is basically family at this point.
After a decade of making those connections and putting in the day to day work, Ackerman stated that she was “just ready for the next thing,” and that she is “happy to give someone else the opportunity to bring new life into the place.”
The folks who will be bringing that new life into the Middle Fork, are longtime employees Jessica Bostick-Lee, Sam Poitras and Halle O’Neal.
Bostick-Lee stated that she is most excited to “continue what Jenna has developed here.”
“It’s the perfect place, and I’ve always wanted to work somewhere like it,” Bostick said, adding that she is looking forward to getting back to doing more pre-COVID events like catering and themed evening dinners.
“I think this place is really special and I’d like to keep it that way,” Poitras commented before adding that he is looking forward to cooking for and with his friends, as well as making improvements wherever he can.
O’Neal stated that she was excited for the sense of accomplishment that comes with going from intern to owner, and looks forward to connecting the community through food. “Fry sauce. It’s all about the fry sauce.”
Helping the new owners continue the standard of service that Ackerman set will be longtime chef Jacob Wells, front of house manager Jamie Warnick, and the many other workers that call the Middle Fork home.