25 Years and Counting
by Luke Osteen
As Chef Wolfgang Green and his wife Mindy celebrate the 25th anniversary of Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro, it’s clear that they’re still passionate about the restaurant, an enthusiasm that’s made the place into a Highlands institution.
“Of course, we’re proud of these 25 years here in Highlands, but they only make us more excited to be thinking about great years to come,” he says.
Indeed, that relentless focus on future possibilities is what led the chef to escape from his native East Germany into the freedom and opportunities of the West.
He learned cooking in a culinary school. But upon hearing rumors that a wall separating his native country from the West was about to be constructed, the teenage Wolfgang decided he had to act. Boarding a train in East Berlin and hiding in the one car that was not searched by the Soviets, he made it to West Berlin and was briefly in a refugee camp. He would not see his parents again for 15 years.
For a while, Wolfgang lived with a West German family and worked in restaurants but, because he wanted to travel, he placed an ad in the National German Restaurant Newspaper seeking work in the food industry, possibly abroad.
That was the beginning of a busy span of years spent working in, and ultimately leading, kitchens around the world. He was hired by Sheraton and began to work at the opening of a new Sheraton Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.
This was followed by an assignment to Bermuda as Sous Chef for The Mid-Ocean Club, and back to Jamaica as Head Chef at the largest hotel on the island.
Chef Wolfgang soon moved to the United States and his career went into overdrive. He was hired by Ella Brennan to join The Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, and then was assigned to Ella’s restaurant in Dallas where he was eventually voted “Texas Chef of the Year” by his peers. Looking to the future, he wanted to learn the front of the house also and became food and beverage manager as well.
Wolfgang was a member of the Texas team that went to the Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany, and they claimed Gold and Silver medals. He also headed the Food and Beverage service for American Hawaii Cruises, serving over 5,000 passengers weekly.
Which brings us to Highlands and Chef Wolfgang and his wife Mindy’s decision to buy Hildegard’s Restaurant 25 years ago.
With typical Wolfgang enthusiasm, they transformed the place. Extensive renovations were followed by the opening of a landscaped pavilion, a wine bar (which earned Wolfgang’s 20 Wine Spectator honors, including “Best Of”), bistro seating that connects the restaurant to Main Street, and a large dining room to accommodate parties and special events.
And, of course, the menu. Even the most cursory glance reveals the influence of Wolfgang’s globe-spanning travels and his openness to the cuisines that he’s encountered.
His German roots are evident in the Wiener Schnitzel and Bavarian Sampler menu options. The Barbecue Shrimp, Crawfish Etouffee, Oysters Rockefeller stem from his time in Jamaica and New Orleans. Naturally, the incredibly tender Filet Mignon and finely seasoned Venison are tributes to his time as Executive Chef in Texas.
“I’d describe my menu as Steak, Fresh Seafood, and Cajun,” says Chef Wolfgang.
He says that all of his dishes are his favorites, but when coaxed, he admits to a special fondness for Veal Medallions “Wolfgang” – a dazzling serving of veal scallopini on cabernet sauce, topped with sautéed crawfish and béarnaise sauce.
Of course, the best way to celebrate Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro’s 25 years as a Highlands landmark is to make reservations – (828) 526-3807 and experience their hospitality.