A Northeast Nebraska native has been named executive chef at Divots Conference Center and SandBar & Grill restaurant in Norfolk.

Keith Wolken, a Northeast Nebraska native who grew up in the industry fry cooking and washing dishes at a young age, will be overseeing all of the businesses’ culinary operations, including the SandBar & Grill restaurant, weddings, meetings and events. Wolken comes to Divots with 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

Wolken has worked at such restaurants as Garden Cafe and Bakery at Rockbrook Village in Omaha, the Elkhorn Steakhouse Kitchen in West Point, Indian Trails Country Club in Beemer, and, most recently, was the executive chef at Barnstormers in Norfolk.

Wolken credits his 25 years in the food industry for instilling a sense of confidence and providing skills that always translate in new environments.

In addition, Divots has hired Jeremy Kirby to take over as brewmaster. He will oversee the creative and technical development of the Divots Brewery.

Kirby, originally from Battle Creek, worked from 2009 to 2012 at Gottberg Brew Pub in Columbus before moving to Smith Mountain Lake, Va., to oversee the development and distribution of Sunken City Brewing Company. After successfully launching the brewing and distribution of the 25-barrel canning facility and spending four years in Virginia, Kirby was ready to move closer to home.

Kirby received a brew master diploma from the VLB in Berlin, Germany. Renowned among his peers for his technical mastery, Kirby's experience allows him to focus on creativity and innovation. He plans to release small-batch beers regularly as a way to gauge the preferences of area enthusiasts and satisfy the loyal following, as well as recruit new patrons to experience the flavor profiles in craft beer.

Donna Herrick, owner of Divots Conference Center, said she is delighted to welcome both men to the Divots team.

"Keith and Jeremy are very talented and seasoned in their trade and they will bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the SandBar & Grill and Divots Brewery,” Herrick said.

Herrick said the staff at Divots has plans in the works to offer entertainment and education through food and beer pairings, tours and sampling events.

“We would like to create beer-inspired foods, as well as lodging, dining and brewery packages just to name a few,” she said. “With our everything-in-one-place concept including the concert series, conference center, hotel, restaurant and brewery, it is our goal to be a destination for people looking for a great getaway or a night out in Northeast Nebraska.”

In other news

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Sioux City airport must close several times in the next month because of a runway construction project.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s president on Monday vowed to “eliminate” all safe havens of the Islamic State group as the country marked a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local IS affiliate.