BORDENTOWN – HoopHouse owner Christine Wendland is no stranger to television cooking shows.
She appeared on the Food Network’s hit television show, “Chopped,” five years ago in 2017, where she earned the elusive title of Chopped Champion.
Earlier this month, Wendland showcased her cooking skills on national television and the Food Network again, competing in the show “Supermarket Stakeout.”
Wendland filmed the show last fall in Scottsdale, Ariz., and got the chance to share the experience with friends and family when her episode, “Fry of the Tiger,” appeared on July 12.
HoopHouse had a watch party down at Tindall Road Brewery for Wendland’s appearance on the show that saw many loyal customers and fellow Bordentown business owners.
“We had a huge watch party, and it was such a good time,” Wendland said. “We invited all our regulars from the restaurant and the DBA (Downtown Bordentown Association). All my staff was there. My family came out. It was a lot of fun.”
Wendland lasted all three rounds and came in second place on her episode. Supermarket Stakeout challenges four chefs to make a dish based on a theme assigned to them by the judges from the food/ingredients they negotiate to buy off from customers leaving the grocery store, according to the show.
The three dishes that Wendland had the chance to create were a potato encrusted meatball po’boy sandwich, pulled-pork nachos with a celery slaw and a popcorn ball with granola and peanut butter.
“It was a tremendous experience (being on Supermarket Stakeout),” Wendland said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was a really good time.”
Since the episode aired, Wendland said she has had many people in the Bordentown community reach out on social media to say that they watched the show and thought she did a great job.
Wendland, who lives in nearby Pemberton Township, has developed deep roots in the Bordentown community over the years.
She worked as an executive chef at the Inn at Fernbrook Farms in nearby Chesterfield Township for six years, catering food for the farm’s wedding venue.
After Wendland left Fernbrook, she began her own catering business, and also set up shop at local farmers’ markets to sell her foods and pastries.
Wendland said she had a “big client” base of Bordentown residents while cooking in the area. Former DBA President C.J. Mugavero had reached out to her about opening up a spot in Bordentown City.
The two were able to find Wendland a spot on Farnsworth Ave where the Bordentown Deli and Cafe used to be during the pandemic, setting the stage for Wendland to open the doors of HoopHouse in August 2020.
“I love (Bordentown),” Wendland said. “I know so many people here and spend all my time here. It’s wonderful.”
The HoopHouse name comes from the hoop house structure used in greenhouses, said Wendland.
All the produce and ingredients that Wendland and her HoopHouse staff use are grown in house or delivered from local farmers and producers.
“At HoopHouse, we specialize in urban rustic cuisine,” Wendland said. “We take the finest ingredients and techniques that we can and turn it into very familiar food for everyday people. Everybody should have that fine dining experience without a fussy meal and that’s what we do.”
Inside HoopHouse, customers can watch Wendland and her staff cook and bake in an open kitchen area, while they dine in an airy dining room that has a little office to work in at the back of the café.
The menu at HoopHouse offers customers a variety of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus coffee, lattes and teas. Customers are also welcomed to bring in any of their alcoholic beverages into the café.
Wendland says most of HoopHouse’s business comes from the breakfast and lunch café menu, and also its baked goods.
“We hear it all the time that there’s nothing like this in (Bordentown),” Wendland said. “We’re a completely unique concept and people love it.”
A big part of HoopHouse is the sourdough breads that Wendland makes and also sells at local farmers’ markets.
All the sourdough breads and pastries are “naturally leavened with no commercial yeast products and are based off of a sour starter,” Wendland said.
Fan favorites from the HoopHouse bakery are scones and beignets, Wendland said.
Wendland’s goal from the start was to make HoopHouse a different type of café that Bordentown residents can eat and socialize at in the downtown area.
It doesn’t matter if it’s coming in to have coffee and a pastry or to eat a gourmet lunch. Wendland just wants her customers to feel comfortable in her HoopHouse café and enjoy their time there in any way they want.
So far, Wendland believes HoopHouse has succeeded in that area since it opened its doors two years ago.
She sees it from the “very loyal” customer base HoopHouse has built in that time, and hears it from the people that tell her and her staff how “comfortable” they are when they come into the café.
“People really enjoy being (at HoopHouse),” Wendland said. ‘It’s a different environment. Everyone is relaxed and they enjoy their time here.”
HoopHouse is open five days a week, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wendland is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She is also an adjunct professor for culinary arts at Rowan College at Burlington County.