Local chef turns the tables on cancer

By Shari Goldstein Stern

Chef Jeffrey Kollinger credits the support of family, friends and clients for helping him conquer cancer.

Some babies are born with a silver spoon. Some are born with a 14k ladle. Could anyone argue that if you can make a living doing what you love, it’s a keinehora? Such is the case with Jeffrey Kollinger, who not only adores his work, but he gets to eat it, too. What more is there?

That would be his family, whom he adores first and foremost, and he is the husband and father most grateful for the privilege of feeding them, too. Although it’s an overused cliché, it fits: Kollinger is the embodiment of: “You can have your cake and eat it too.”

The entrepreneur has more than 30 years of experience in culinary design, event creation, catering and restaurant management. During his career in the food industry, he has been with businesses including Houston’s, Brookhaven Country Club, Pomodora and the Fairmont Hotel, and he spent 10 years at the Mansion on Turtle Creek working, learning from, and channeling Dean Fearing.

Kollinger is a founder and CEO of Innovative Hospitality Group (IHG). This is the parent company of Managed Food Services, which provides food services to office buildings, The Spice of Life Catering and Tillman’s Bishop Arts (formerly Tilman’s Roadhouse). 

Kollinger’s interest in volunteering at events is largely due to his affection for kids. “Putting a smile on kids’ faces is humbling,” he said. This gives him an opportunity to do what he loves best while helping kids who need the help.

His own kids are Clayton who is 14 and Ryan, 12. Only Ryan is a foodie like his dad who enjoys cooking. Kollinger’s wife, Melinda Segal Kollinger, says, “Why would I cook when I’m married to a chef?”

“Cheffrey,” as his family likes to call him said, “We’ve got two killer pets. Rocko is a chocolate Goldendoodle. Rowdy is a Whoodle (Wheaten Standard Poodle). “They each weigh 80 lbs. They’re both gorgeous, and they follow us everywhere. They sleep on whatever parts of the bed they darn well feel like.” 

The chef is a native Dallasite who attended the Greenhill School before transferring to a boarding school in Boston. He graduated from Hillcrest High School before attending The University of Texas at Austin and Southwest Texas State.

“I know I had food in my DNA from the beginning. I was a foodie my whole life. My parents had a big dining table seating 14, where they would serve big dinner parties. I always loved food and everything food related. 

Kollinger loved to cook from an early age. “I loved making sandwiches of all types, and I called them ‘Sammys,’” he reminisced. “Now I include Sammys on my catering menu for casual events.”

 Kollinger is the CEO of The Spice of Life Catering (SOLC), a high-end catering company that has impressed DFW businesses for more than 36 years, accommodating large galas, corporate retreats and intimate gatherings. A few of the well-known names SOLC has served include Mark Cuban, Pat and Emmitt Smith, and George Clooney. Other affairs have been catered for government agencies: the City of Dallas, mayors and non-profit agencies. “I’m so humbled by opportunities I’ve had to work with so many interesting people and events,” Kollinger said.

In his most recent role, Kollinger purchased the iconic Tillman’s Roadhouse in Oak Cliff, where he serves as CEO. Tillman’s is a staple in the historic Bishop Arts District. To more accurately describe the trendy location, the restaurateur changed the name to Tillman’s Bishop Arts, and it offers an inviting, relaxed atmosphere with impeccable food and cocktails. He is currently looking to expand the brand to other locations

“Tillman’s attracts a blend of all generations who enjoy the thriving new community in and around the area,” Kollinger commented. “The menus speak to different generations with a compelling palate. Younger patrons want a lot of taste but not a lot of food,” he explained.

Tillman’s Roadhouse in Oak Cliff is now called Tillman’s Bishop Arts.

No campfire is needed for the Tableside S’mores. Everything Kollinger serves is from scratch, even the marshmallows and graham crackers that accompany the dark chocolate bark. Not your overnight camp s’mores.

Repeat patrons begged Kollinger to bring back their beloved tater tots, which he eliminated because they weren’t up to his standards. The carryover morsels were reincarnated Cheffery-style as Goat Cheese Truffle Tater Tots with Jalapeño lemon garlic aioli. A menu favorite, they are cooked to order, served as a baker’s dozen and have a serious following. “Chic cuisine” is the way Kollinger describes the menu with items like pecan crusted okra served with three-olive remoulade. For Restaurant Week this year, Tillman’s menu included items like Shiner Bock and Roast Brisket Soup and Tillman’s “Famous” Chicken Fried Steak, which is made with filet mignon, served with buttermilk golden potato, bacon braised green beans and charred poblano peppers. The creative chef even offers a menu item in tribute to the Fair — a “Lobster Corn Dog Jalapeno lemon aioli, Corn Dollars.”

Kollinger earned the Taste of Dallas 2018 Award for Best Dish in Dallas, Culturemap Tastemaker Awards named him among the Top 10 Chefs in Dallas 2018, and SOL won the 2016 Best of Carrollton award. SOL has received other recognition from Consumer Choice Awards; D Weddings’ list of caterers; and Dallas Business Journal — Largest Metroplex Catering Companies. Kollinger is also a frequent guest on “Good Morning Dallas WFAA.” 

In 2015, the chef was diagnosed with and recovered from metastatic malignant melanoma tumor thrombosis and was put on an experimental drug. He was out most of the year while his wife took a sabbatical from work to take care of him. “I’m lucky to come back. I love every day. I have a happy home life. I’m so grateful for my great wife and children. I’m happy because I survived when I shouldn’t have. I’m humbled by being here. I’m humbled by the trust clients have in me.

“I’m living my true passion. I never get tired of cooking. My good fortune to make my living this way. I’m so fortunate my work lets me be and flourish in my life. With the most wonderful family anyone could hope for, I’m a fortunate guy all the way around,” the lucky guy said. 

For more information, visit thespiceoflifecatering.com.