Bertie Varner was born in 1927 in Arkansas and considers herself more of a Texan than the folks who were born and raised in Texas. She worked in restaurants in both Arkansas and Texas and is self-taught in “down home cooking”.
In 1976, she was working in a restaurant in Kerrville, Texas off of Interstate 10, when the owners of the Y.O. Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas offered her a position to cook daily breakfast, lunch and dinner for 35 of their ranch hands. She accepted on the condition that no one would tell her what to cook, which was agreed upon.
Her Chuck Wagon is a one story cottage in the middle of the ranch, and she cooks everything from scratch. The busloads of visiting tourists have upped the number of meals from 35 to sometimes 120, but she knows what they like and she doesn’t need a staff of helpers.
In 1985, the Great Chefs television crew were taping a PBS series on Southwestern Cuisine entitled “Great Chefs of the West”, and they decided to include a down home cooking segment in each episode. While taping the chef at Hilton’s Y.O. Ranch Hotel on I-10, he suggested that the crew check out their Chuck Wagon a few miles away. Bertie Varner agreed, and four of her dishes were taped for episodes 1, 5, 7 & 9.