Miguel Angel Hernandez Salazar, a 37-year-old Bolinas resident, a father and the head cook at Eleven restaurant, died last week after flipping his pickup in the Point Reyes National Seashore late last Monday on his way to stay at his friend’s ranch.
Just before midnight on Sunday, a neighbor called in after seeing the crash on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the intersection with Pierce Point Road. Personnel from the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department were first at the scene, followed closely by help from Marin County Fire, the sheriff’s office and California Highway Patrol, along with a helicopter from Contra Costa County.
Bret McTigue, a public information officer with the county fire department, said it took around 15 minutes to extricate Miguel from the truck. An officer for the state highway patrol reported that the agency was investigating the incident as an alcohol-related collision, and that preliminary information showed that he had not sustained major injuries from the crash. A final determination of the cause of his death is pending the release of a toxicology report, however.
Miguel arrived in California from Ciudad Maduro in Tamaulipas, Mexico around age 18. After working for several local ranches and a landscaping business in West Marin, he moved to Bolinas and began cooking for Eleven over a year ago. Though he started as a dishwasher, Rebecca Sterlin, the owner of the wine bar and bistro, said she quickly moved him to the front of the line—“Best decision we ever made,” she said, describing a man of even temper, energy and unshakeable good nature.
Ms. Sterlin said she turned over in her sleep early last Monday morning and happened to see the glow of her phone light. She drove straight to Marin General Hospital to join his girlfriend, Karina Borjas, who also works on the line at Eleven.
All of the other employees from the restaurant made the trip together later in the week to say their goodbyes once doctors had determined that Miguel’s condition was terminal. He died in the hospital last Thursday afternoon.
Miguel left behind a 4-year-old daughter, Keneah Carol Hernandez, and his wife, Abigail Montiel Vazquez, from whom he was separated. He is survived by three sisters in Texas and Mexico.
Although the vision that Ms. Sterlin originally had for the restaurant was of a staff of women, Miguel fit in well. “He was always singing, always dancing—he never lost his temper,” she said. “He didn’t have any ego or agenda about the food; he just wanted to do the job well.”
Despite a language barrier, Ms. Sterlin said Miguel and Ms. Borjas were the core of what has become a family among the staff at the restaurant, which launched in the summer of 2017.
“I have to say, watching Miguel and Karina’s love for each other grow was one of the sweetest and now one of the saddest things I’ve gotten to see,” she said. “I think that the love that they have for each other made a big difference, affecting the kitchen at Eleven and how Miguel remained happy—an amazing force—every night.”
A haiku written by Miguel's former co-workers goes like this: "We will always hear/Your singing in our kitchen/Thank you for your heart." Donations for his family can be made in a box at the restaurant.