“Little Bear,” is a fairly common term of endearment, especially for pets and kids. But for chef Jarrett Stieber, the name of his forthcoming restaurant in Summerhill has special significance: it’s also the nickname of his Great Pyrenees dog, Fernando.
It’s hard to believe the now 120-pound, oft-Instagrammed pup dubbed the “Ambassador of Adorable” was just eleven pounds when Stieber and his wife, Hallie, adopted him at seven weeks old from Darby Farms, located outside of Athens.
“He was the size his head is now,” recalls Stieber, who knew the farmers from using their chickens at his popular Eat Me, Speak Me pop-ups.
“We visited the farm and got to know Fernando’s parents and found the dogs to be incredible,” he continues. “I basically traded a traded free dinner for a puppy.”
Now five years old and instantly recognizable due to his massive size, fluffy fur, and piercing blue eyes, Fernando is a bit of a local celebrity.
“I can’t tell you how many times Hallie and I have been sitting outside the pub by our house having a beer, and we’ve heard someone yell “‘Fernando!’” from their car window,” says Stieber.
Even actual celebrities can’t get enough of the dog.
“We’re very used to people asking to pet him, but one day, Hallie was getting margaritas at Bartaco with her brother, and a woman asked to say hi,” he recalls. “Fernando was hamming it up and rolling around and showing his belly, and the woman laid on the ground on the patio cuddling with him for a long time.”
That woman? Scarlett Johansson.
Given Fernando’s popularity, Stieber says naming his first brick-and-mortar space after him was a no-brainer.
“It was just a matter of coming up with the correct nomenclature,” he explains. “We settled on ‘Little Bear’ because we’ve called him that his entire life because he does look like a little bear. And I was worried if we called the restaurant ‘Fernando’s,’ people would think it was some kind of red [sauce] pasta joint,” explains Stiber, who plans to continue the whimsical, seasonal approach to food he perfected at his popular pop-ups.
The 30-seat restaurant will officially open on February 26, and Stieber says already its name has really resonated with future diners.
“We have a lot of people who call and say ‘oh, that’s what I call my daughter. I can’t wait to take my little bear to Little Bear.”
By Laura Scholz, Atlanta Magazine