More than a decade ago, Craig Hindelang arrived in Columbia from St. Louis to invest in a bistro on Broadway. He had a passion for food, a culinary school education and a few years experience. After several months of planning, he began working at Colosseum Bistro in 2002 with his friend Jeff Ferguson.
“Columbia’s culinary scene is very eclectic; it has a lot of everything,” Hindelang says. “I had the Colosseum Bistro for a while with a friend, and then we ended up getting out of that. Then, I went to work with Stadium Grill. I helped open and run that for the first three years of its operation, before I moved here.”
“Here” is Churchill’s and Sports Zone, the two restaurants located in the Holiday Inn Executive Center. The new executive chef quickly began to make changes to both when he arrived in January — changes that Hindelang hopes to have in place by summer’s end.
“At Churchill’s and Sports Zone, a lot of things are going to be different,” he says. “We’re going to serve a little bit of everything and make the menus more eclectic and versatile at both restaurants. They’ll both feature a lot of steak and seafood items in the future.”
Hindelang is pairing Churchill’s refined menu with a new selection of wines, offering wine suggestions for many of the entrées, old and new. Even in an atmosphere of change, a couple of Churchill’s standards remain constant. Two of Hindelang’s favorites — the restaurant’s signature Chilean Sea Bass and the classic Tournedos A La Bordelaise — will remain on the menu.
Diners should also expect the same fine-dining atmosphere to remain at Churchill’s from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Hindelang has no plans to begin serving lunch at the restaurant. Instead, he hopes to attract the lunch crowd with a new, modern American menu at Sports Zone that will keep guests coming back to the hotel again and again.
In and out of the kitchen, Hindelang works as the food and beverage director of the Holiday Inn Executive Center. The chef manages the hotel’s two restaurants as well as the Executive Center’s catering and banquet services. He commands of an army of culinary soldiers, including 35 employees who work in the kitchen and an additional 60 employees on staff.
“Very carefully is how I manage everything,” he says. “I’m pretty much everywhere. I’m constantly moving around, making sure that everything is correct. I have three chefs below me that I work with on a daily basis, formulating menus or working on technique or just putting everything into play. So it’s a juggling act every day. I don’t do the same thing in the same day twice.”
Hindelang’s ultimate goal for the Executive Center is simple: to serve quality food. The chef is on a quest to achieve excellence in every aspect of the hotel’s culinary ventures. In order to meet that goal, a quality team is necessary to ensure a memorable dining experience for every customer, he says.
“I’m implementing a new set of standards for everything we’re putting into play,” he says. “We’re updating menus; we are putting in new processes as to how we do things. Everything is training, training, training — every day.”
At the end of his long days, Hindelang finds fulfillment in the product he serves and the smiles on the faces of his staff and customers.
“I like helping people more than anything else,” he says. “I love having the reward of putting out a new dish and seeing how the customer and the employee react to it. That’s the best.”