Tom Henkel (l) and Bill Kolhoff of Fusion 3. Photo credit: Kelli Miller
Chef Bill Kolhoff has a reputation for turning heads. Recently, when his grilled leg of lamb upstaged the vows at a lakeside wedding party, he almost felt bad about it. Almost.
Together with Toledo restaurateur Tom Henkel, a veteran caterer with a flair for international cuisine and creative planning, Kolhoff has co-founded Fusion 3 Catering. The service is so focused on customer satisfaction that a new, custom menu is created for each event. “We don’t even have a menu anymore. Our approach is ‘Listen to the client,'” Henkel said.
A versatile chef whose specialties include Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, French, German, Italian, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern cuisine, Henkel absorbs the details of the event and connects with Kolhoff to craft a menu. “We call that Version One, because we expect to revise it based on client feedback.”
Bill Kolhoff. Photo credit: Kelli Miller
The partnership came about organically for the duo, whose roots both run deep in the Toledo restaurant scene. For Kolhoff, former head of the Culinary Program at University of Toledo, a six year run planning events and preparing meals at The Vineyard Wineshop and Cafe, before running Sam and Andy’s downtown and then working in house for Churchill’s, opened his eyes to the creative versatility of a career in catering.
Henkel departed college with a degree in Economics, and his extensive work with legendary Buffalo, NY-based restaurateurs the Turgeon Brothers began to steer his career toward the kitchen. Working his way up from waiter to VP of Special Events, Henkel even fed the Buffalo Bills before relocating to Toledo and connecting with his future business-partner Kolhoff.
“I was catering a big event a few years back and in need of help. I knew about Bill so I called him up. A few months later he called me, and it just happened naturally,” Henkel said.
Of course, Covid-19 caught Kolhoff and Henkel off-guard— along with the rest of the food service industry. While the kitchen went dark for a time during the early days of the pandemic, Henkel’s voice sounds assured as he recounts their efforts to get the business smoking again.
“We’re getting back up and running. Socially-distanced is our style, so it’s been working out fairly well.”
Henkel cites Fusion 3’s focus on taste and carving stations as a means of creating space between diners and staff while maintaining a festive atmosphere. Those have been especially popular at yacht club parties, where tents mark stations allowing revelers to sample a number of delicacies.
Tom Henkel. Photo credit: Kelli Miller
Having catered everything from high school reunions to over a dozen murder mystery dinner parties, Henkel and Kolhoff relish the opportunity to go big, and tackle the more challenging assignments as Fusion 3.
“It’s like ‘Mission: Impossible’,” chuckles Kolhoff when describing the team’s approach to catering a complex event. His joke highlights the importance of teamwork in pulling off those tough assignments without a hitch, but Kolhoff recognizes that this kind of crack teamwork can’t happen without a loyal crew, and that’s why Fusion 3 keeps a trusted staff of servers on call for every event. “We pay our servers well, and treat our team like family” Kolhoff said.. “When the staff is happy, the client is happy.”
With the holidays fast approaching, the two chefs are gearing up for their popular “2 Santas and a Sleigh” service, which brings the food and festive atmosphere of the North Pole to Toledo.
As for the “3” in Fusion 3? “We had a third partner in the beginning. That didn’t work out,” Henkel said. “But Bill and I liked the name so we kept it.”
For more information or to request a meeting, visit the Fusion 3 Catering website at: fusion3group.com