New chef thinks a steak, like Craig, is fine being itself |

New chef thinks a steak, like Craig, is fine being itself

Collin Smith

— A good steak is like the city of Craig: It doesn’t need to be dressed up to make it any better.

“The people here, they’re great people, and this is a great town,” said Rolfy Chavez, 46, executive chef at the new Castle Ranch Steakhouse inside the Holiday Inn of Craig. “This town is a meat and potatoes town. That’s what our menu is. That’s the concept.”

Chavez hails from San Diego, where he worked in various kitchens for the past 20 years, mostly cooking Mediterranean cuisine.

The majority of his experience has been with hotels. He started as a room service waiter but asked to move into the kitchen as soon as he could.

After working with Sheraton Hotels & Resorts for 14 years, he and his wife, Suzette, opened their own restaurant, a lunch spot called The Soup Stone located about two miles from San Diego Bay.

Suzette loves food, Chavez said, and the couple likes to share whatever they can with the community around them.

They and their two children – a 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son – cooked for San Diego’s Ladle Fellowship, a Christian soup kitchen, to feed the homeless.

Chavez hopes to be able to get out of the Holiday Inn kitchen eventually and do something similarly community-oriented in Craig.

“It’s trying to give to the community something it needs, and in that case, it was something I loved, too,” Chavez said.

The couple sold their restaurant after two years, and Chavez toured as a guest chef at country clubs and fine restaurants. He learned how to cook in a steakhouse by working in upscale dinner spots such as Ruth’s Chris.

He spent one off-season cooking for the San Diego Chargers football team.

“They liked to eat a lot,” he said. “They liked their meat. Lots of proteins.”

Patrick Jennings, director of sales for the Craig Holiday Inn, said he’s amazed the hotel was able to bring him in to “upgrade” the kitchen.

“I spent 25 years in the food service business, so I knew talent when I saw it,” Jennings said. “He came from San Diego, where he was doing pretty well. I don’t know what corporate had to promise that guy to get him here.”

Chavez is the central component of an expansive overhaul at the Holiday Inn.

The hotel has spent about $90,000 redesigning the restaurant and stocking the kitchen with new ingredients, and more work is planned.

“Without (Chavez) here, I don’t know that any of this would have happened,” Jennings said. “He is what makes it all work. We want to make this an institution, not just the restaurant at the Holiday Inn. We want this to be a standalone destination.”

Holiday Inn management also plans to turn Cassidy’s, the bar and lounge located off the main lobby, into a sports bar – complete with big flat-screen TVs and individual volume controls at every table – called The Sports Page Lounge.

Jennings said the bar renovation would cost another $75,000 to $100,000.

All of those big dollar signs won’t change Chavez’s simple approach to his food. He cooks for people, and everything else is garnish.

“Food brings people together,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who they are in society or life, everybody loves food. When food is served, it should make people smile. Here, we give the options of 16-ounce steaks to 12-ounce steaks to filet mignons and also some seafood. We try to please the people here with the food they want to eat.”

Chavez doesn’t miss the perpetually cool and sunny coast of California. He said he thinks he can be part of what makes Craig’s future better than its past.

Which doesn’t mean bringing California to Craig.

“If you have a good steak, you don’t need to add a lot to it,” Chavez said. “I want to leave it alone. It speaks for itself.”

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