Pets have to eat, too.
Dog balancing dog biscuit on his nose
Credit: Chalabala via Getty Images

It goes without saying that this has been the worst year in anyone's lifetime for restaurants and the hardworking folks who staff them. These businesses took a huge hit in 2020 for reasons beyond their control, closing a depressing number of restaurants from coast to coast. With winter here and the pandemic's death toll skyrocketing, it's inevitable that things are going to get worse for chefs and restaurants before they get better again.

So what's a furloughed chef to do in the meantime to stay busy and make ends meet? In the case of at least one Chicago-area chef, the answer to that question is "pivot to dog food."

For a while now, Stephen Bienek, who used to work the kitchen of the Marriott hotel in downtown Chicago's Magnificent Mile, has been hard at work making and selling gourmet-style dog treats meant to provide pups of all sorts with an elevated dining experience. They're made with natural ingredients and available in two flavors that almost sound like they'd appeal to a human: pumpkin and apple, as well as sweet potato and cinnamon. 

While dog owners probably shouldn't actually eat those treats, it sounds like they'd enjoy them too. Why? Because they're Star Wars-themed. These treats are fashioned into the likeness of Darth Vader and Yoda (though seemingly not food icon Baby Yoda), which surely convinced a few superfans out there to pull the trigger on Bieniek's $12/six biscuits offering. 

Despite the fact that Bieniek himself doesn't have a dog, the treats this chef assembled have earned two thumbs and four paws up. 

"Dogs love them because they're a lot thicker than usual dog treats and more on the chewy side," Bieniek told Block Club Chicago. "Owners like them because they're ideal if you have older dogs who have trouble chewing."

Over the past months, Bieniek's worked hard at making food for humans, too. On top of the dog treats, he's cooked up dinner packages that can serve anywhere from two to more people than you should have in your home right now. Fittingly for the holiday season, fried latkes are part of the package as well. 

Just like so many American people, it's obvious that restaurants and chefs need real relief beyond what Guy Fieri has already raised. In the meantime, it's at least good to know that there are people out there dedicating their time to keeping dogs and the people who love them happy.