Alamo Drafthouse adds executive chef

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — As the chef of a movie theater, Barbara Hineline is used to seeing stars on the big screen. But it wasn’t too long ago that they were walking through the door of her intimate Georgetown café.

She shot the breeze with Mikhail Baryshnikov. She chatted with Kathleen Turner over a glass of wine. She even got to meet George Clooney, and it was the one time she broke her personal “no autographs” rule.

“I went all the way to California to Warner Brothers Studios to try to catch a glimpse of him and all I had to do was cook breakfast in my restaurant and there he was,” she said.

Many other stars, such as Edward Norton, Jodie Foster, Holly Hunter, Jesse Jackson and Presidents Reagan and Clinton all have been to the restaurant she was managing in the St. Gregory Hotel.

“A lot of the celebrities would stay at the Ritz-Carlton and then come to our place for breakfast because it was small and there wasn’t this overload of people who knew they were staying in the hotel,” she said.

Hineline’s culinary experience has taken her to jobs at the Watergate, the Baltimore Museum of Art and includes her past 17 years of living in Winchester and working at her own catering business. She joined the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in April as its executive chef.

On Tuesday, the cinema hosted a tasting of the new dishes Hineline designed and was adding to the menu.

These dishes were: hatch green chili queso blanco with tortilla chips, asian salad with spicy peanut vinaigrette, bass-battered fish tacos with chipotle aioli and cucumber avocado relish, honey jalapeno boneless wings and sweet and spicy sambal wings.

Hineline, who is of Irish ethnicity, said her specialty is Mediterranean food. She showcased this in the three pizzas she also was adding to the menu, which were a rustica pizza made from garlic oil, proscuitto, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, mozzarella and roasted shallots; a Chicken Florentine pizza made from garlic oil, spinach, mozzarella, chicken, Roma tomatoes and bacon crumbles; and a Thai chicken pizza made from Sweet Thai chili sauce, chicken, mozzarella, red peppers, goat cheese crumbles, spicy peanut drizzle and fresh cilantro.

She explained that everything, from the sauces, pizza dough and salad dressings, are made in-house. She added that she can use gluten-free crusts for any of the pizzas.

“All of the ingredients here are already on something in the Alamo,” she said. “I brought nothing new in to make these dishes. That’s kind of a neat thing, taking the ingredients and twisting them around and making something new out of them.”

She said she was doing consulting work in the lobby of the cinema last winter when management asked her if she knew anyone qualified enough to serve as its executive chef. They asked her if she knew anyone who could develop creative new menu items. That’s when she nominated herself.

“It was like a eureka moment for all of us,” she said.

Hineline is the first executive chef at the Winchester theater. Alamo’s corporate office has chefs who work on research and development — much of what Hineline will do at her new position — but its individual cinemas have had only kitchen managers until recently.

Hineline won a character fantasy contest in the summer of 2009, where she appeared on the USA network whipping up one of her most famous dishes, a shrimp and corn enchilada with goat cheese and a tomatillo salsa on top.

“People would come up to me on the street and say, ‘Oh my God, you were on TV at 1:30 this morning,'” she said. She said she had no doubts she’ll serve the dish at the Alamo sometime in the future.

Personally not a big fan of Food Network chefs, she lists her culinary influences as Jacques Pépin, Marcella Hazan and the first cookbook she ever bought, “The Making of a Cook,” written by Madeleine Kamman.

“I bought it at a thrift store when I was 22 and it was like my bible,” she said.

Hineline said the biggest difference between cooking for a restaurant and the Alamo is the volume of customers.

“At a restaurant, people trickle in and they sit,” she said. “At a movie theater, they come in large groups. You have to be spot-on, you have to be ready and you have to be fast.

“If it rains Saturday during the day, you got 800 people in the building, all sitting in your restaurant within 10 minutes of each other,” she said.

Naturally, one of the perks of her job is watching free movies, but she said she usually goes home to her family when her shift ends. She said the last time she saw a movie in theaters was in June.

Lisa Limoges, director of operations at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester, said Hineline was hired for her creativity, experience and reputation within the community.

“Barbara has a very diverse background of working with franchise organizations, with independent kitchens, with her own catering company,” she said. “And here at the Alamo, we’re a movie theater, we’re an event center, we’re a restaurant, so we really need someone with a wide background.”

She said that Hineline, as an executive chef, will be responsible for the theater’s special events, food cost analysis, overall food quality and consistency.

Hineline said, “What I do is research the movie and figure out if there’s a specific food that corresponds to that movie, what did they eat in the movie.”

The Alamo will sometimes pair up movies with specific foods from those films. For “The World’s End,” a British comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, she cooked fish and chips for the audience. During a private screening of “Goldfinger” on Monday, she created a meal of relevant dishes, including a martini — shaken, not stirred, of course.

“It’s like a lab,” Hineline said. “It’s the most fun of labs, because you get to eat everything.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com