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Q&A: How Chef Diana crafts Zinc’s fall menu

Posted On Oct 8, 2018, 09:42 AM by Courtney Mattern

“Where should we eat?”  This simple question can quickly make a night out to a show complicated.

In my family, it leads to even more questions. What are you hungry for? How busy will it be? Where will we park? Will we have enough time to get to the show? The struggle is real.

Luckily, I have a simple answer. Eat at the Holland Performing Arts Center! If you’re coming to a show, you can book a table at Zinc, our full-service restaurant, on Or, you can pull up a seat at the Ovations bar and lounge or Skyview Terrace and order an appetizer. These locations open two and a half hours before performances at the Holland Center. The best part? You park once, and you’re only steps away from your show. No rushing, no stress. Win-win. 

A smiling couple dining in Zinc clinks their glasses together in cheers.
A couple dines in Zinc before a performance at the Holland Center.

Our in-house chef Diana Browder crafts her seasonal menus from fresh, local ingredients. She’s been with us for three years in association with Guckenheimer, our exclusive food and beverage provider. She just released our fall menu – and it sounds delicious.

For this Q&A, she filled me in on how she created the menu, what her inspirations are and what it’s like to be a chef.

Q. Why did you want to become a chef?
DB: I came to a bit of a crossroads in my life when my children started school. I have a degree in Psychology and had begun to explore careers in that area. While I thought that avenue would be fulfilling, I also wanted to find something that would make me happy to get up and go to work each day. I always had a passion for cooking, so I decided to start by taking a few culinary classes…That was about 10 years ago, and I am happy to report I do enjoy getting up and going to work every day!

Q. What does your typical day look like?
DB: I got into cooking, because I love to cook. So, I still spend a lot of time in the kitchen along with the rest of the cooks. Besides cooking, I spend a lot of time providing for and guiding my staff. And making a lot of lists! 

Q. Where do you start when you’re making a menu?
DB: Every season I start with ingredients. What is available at this time of year? Our fall menu typically runs from September to February, so I have to make sure that these ingredients will be available for the entire six-month run of the menu. The spring menu is a little easier because the window of time is smaller, and it is also a great time of year for fresh produce and bright flavors.

Q. What inspires your menu? How do you come up with your ideas?
DB: Sometimes I think of a feeling. With fall – I think of being warm and cozy – food that you want to dive into when it’s cold outside. That’s where dishes like the Sticky Toffee Pudding and Roasted Autumn Chicken come from on our fall menu.

I also find inspiration in global flavors. Exploring cuisine from different cultures and countries is fascinating to me. It is amazing how you can take the same ingredients and use them in different ways to create some truly unique dishes. On our current menu, both of our seafood dishes have global inspirations.

Q. Where do you find your seasonal ingredients?
DB: Guckenheimer prides itself in using sustainable, humanely raised, natural ingredients. We are chef-driven and almost everything is made in-house and from scratch. We are lucky to work with some great local purveyors. Plum Creek Farms is a local farm that provides us with free-range, antibiotic-free chickens. The Autumn Roasted Chicken on our fall menu features Plum Creek. Milton Creamery makes some excellent aged cheeses that we feature in Zinc, Ovations and Skyview Terrace.

Q. Tell us about a dish on the fall menu you’re really excited about:
DB: This year I have been trying to eat healthier, so for me personally, I really love both of the salads from this menu. They have lots of texture, healthy ingredients, great flavors and look beautiful.

Q. What would you recommend someone try if it’s their first time at Zinc?
DB: Whether our guests are attending the show or just stopping in for a nice dinner, we try to have something for everyone on the menu. Our perennial favorites are the Zinc Mac and Cheese featuring Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze, Gemelli Pasta and a Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce. The Open-Faced Steak Sandwich, which is sliced Omaha Steaks petit tender on housemade flatbread with a bacon shallot marmalade. Our top-selling item is Mr. Holland's Meatloaf. In 2015, I had the pleasure of creating this meatloaf for Richard Holland's 94th birthday party. He loved it so much we decided to feature it on our Fall 2015 Zinc menu and name it after him. It has remained a guest favorite ever since! 

Zinc is open two and a half hours before performances at the Holland Center. We recommend making a reservation. You can do so on the Open Table app or at Learn more about dining at the Holland on our website.