Yvonne Etcheveste, longtime Bakersfield restaurant owner, 1931 – 2017

Yvonne Etcheveste

Yvonne Etcheveste

Yvonne Etcheveste, long time owner of the Chateau Basque in Bakersfield, has died. Etcheveste, who was born in the small French-Basque town of Aldudes, ran the Chateau Basque for more than 25 years, first with her former husband Raymond and later with her daughter Jacki and her longtime partner David Gilliland.  A rosary service for Etcheveste will be held Wednesday, January 17 at 11:30 a.m. and the funeral mass will be held at 12:00 p.m. St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 900 H. St. in Bakersfield.

She was born to Etienne Arretche and Jeanne Zubiri on May 09, 1931. Her family lived a quiet and simple life until the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Etcheveste often spoke of the atrocities her family experienced in her small town and the fear that replaced the peaceful life they had previously known. Eventually, the war ended and life went back to normal but Etcheveste never forgot that time.  Personal freedom in all aspects of life was an ideal she cherished and strived to achieve and maintain in her own life, said her daughter Jacki Etcheveste.

Yvonne, then Arretche, met her future husband Raymond Etcheveste who had also experienced the atrocities of WWII by fighting for the French army, being captured and living in prisoner camps both in Germany and Morocco. He also had a desire to seek a better life in a place where freedom was a cherished way of life. Raymond immigrated to the United States on a sponsored sheep contract where he worked as a sheepherder for three  years. Once that contract was fulfilled, he sent for Yvonne who immigrated to the United States with a sponsored job as a maid in a hotel in Susanville, Calif. They married and started their journey towards that new, better life. Their only child, Jacqueline, was born in Pomona, Calif. Raymond worked in the dairies in the Chino area and Yvonne ran a motel they purchased nearby.

Basque Cafe in Bakersfield

In 1962, they purchased the original Basque Cafe, an established Basque restaurant in the east side of Bakersfield. This was the beginning of the next chapter of their lives. They both became American citizens, purchased their dream business and lived their lives as proud Americans but still retained their French Basque heritage and culture and shared it with others. They relocated 11 years later to a larger facility on Union Avenue and renamed the restaurant Chateau Basque. Raymond and Yvonne divorced in 1980 and Raymond retired and passed away later in Northern California. Etcheveste continued to run the restaurant with her daughter Jacki. She met David Gilliland, a contractor working in Bakersfield. Gilliland left the construction industry and joined with Yvonne and Jacki  to run the Chateau Basque until its doors closed in August 2000.

Chateau Basque restaurant in Bakersfield served Basque food for 27 years.

Etcheveste’s passion was cooking for others and providing not only a delicious meal but also a memorable experience as well. She lived to serve others and the restaurant was her way of sharing her Basque culture along with her passion for great cuisine. She was always known as “the hardest working woman in Bakersfield,” said her daughter Jacki Etcheveste, but it was truly labor she loved.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016 and it quickly took over in a matter of two years. She lived her final years after closing the restaurant in the same quiet, simple way she began her life so many years before. She achieved that “better life” she so desired and she lived it on her terms. It was a long, productive life; a life well lived. She will be missed.

She is survived by her daughter Jacki Etcheveste, her brother Jean Pierre (Pampy) Arretche, her two sisters Danielle (Dany) Osowiecki and Christianne (Kiki) Gillette, her long- time partner David Gilliland and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation.