This is the title of the new book by The Chef’s Garden and, in it, Farmer Lee Jones shares the knowledge they’ve gained over the years on how to select, prepare, and cook vegetables. It’s a guidebook with more than 500 entries, ideal for home cooks who love to include fresh vegetables in their family’s meals—and it also contains 100 recipes created by the head chef at the Culinary Vegetable Institute of The Chef’s Garden.
Entries range the gamut of commonly known veggies to unusual ones, and from herbs to edible flowers. Recipes include the following: Beet Marshmallows, Cornbread-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, Onion Caramel, Ramp Top Pasta, and Seared Rack of Brussels Sprouts.
The tone of this comprehensive guidebook is approachable and friendly, just like Farmer Lee Jones himself, and it shares innovative techniques to transform vegetables in your kitchen. The book captures the essence of the farm, one that grows and harvests with the belief that every part of a plant offers something unique on the plate.
Vegetables are at the forefront of cuisine in this increasingly plant-forward world, and this book will transform the way you think about, eat, and cook them.
This book (one you’ll reach for, again and again!) will be available on April 20, 2021. Although A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables—with Recipes is big news, that’s not all that’s happening on the farm. Farmer Lee and his team are busy with their home deliveries of fresh vegetables and they’re excited about nutritional information about those vegetables being confirmed by an independent lab.
The Soil is the Heart of The Chef’s Garden.
Farmer Lee and his family have long believed that, if they nurture their soil and treat it like its own crop, the added flavor this provides would also result in fresh vegetables that burst with nutrition. This was confirmed in their own agricultural research lab—and now has been independently verified: vegetables from The Chef’s Garden actually have 300 to 600 percent more in nutrients than the USDA baseline.
Vegetables grown at The Chef’s Garden are especially nutrient rich because they use regenerative farming techniques that allow them to naturally enrich the soil. At a high level, this means they strategically use diverse cover crops to build up the soil; till, only as needed, and gently at that; and allow two thirds of their fields to lay fallow each year so that the soil can rest and be appropriated, fed and watered.
This is in direct contrast to today’s conventional farming techniques where crops are grown for maximum yield—rather than for optimal flavor and nutrition—and where chemicals are used. At The Chef’s Garden, the team farms in harmony with Mother Nature for healthy soil, healthy crops, healthy people, and a healthy planet.
This is in direct contrast to today’s conventional farming techniques where crops are grown for maximum yield—rather than for optimal flavor and nutrition—and where chemicals are used. At The Chef’s Garden, the team farms in harmony with Mother Nature for healthy soil, healthy crops, healthy people, and a healthy planet.
So: new book, home deliveries, and powerful nutritional verifications! With all of this good news, you can understand why Farmer Lee is smiling on the new book’s cover.
Story by Kelly Boyer Sagert
Juan Pablo de la Sota Riva Leal checking on his hydroponic crop at Royal Poinciana Golf Club.
Image by Stephanie Starr.
At Royal Poinciana Golf Club, we were committed to buying locally farmed produce for our Membership. Two years ago, we started a partnership with Jonathan and Isabel Way of Calusa Farms in Naples, Florida. Not only are they dedicated to growing environmentally friendly, sustainable produce, but they maintain Royal Poinciana Golf Club’s hydroponic garden.
Isabel comes from a multi-generational family of farmers who still produce quality products in Colombia. She moved to the United States after earning her degree in environmental sciences. Her expertise in plant science led to Collier County’s Master Gardner and Florida Friendly Landscaping Coordinator position from 2013 until 2018.
Jonathan’s love for building hydroponic gardens started when he was young and became his business after moving to Florida. He worked with local chefs to develop the quality of produce that their high standards required. Calusa Farms does an excellent job of meeting that need.
From Farm to Fork
In addition to Calusa Farms, we have also connected with other great local businesses to ensure we always get the quality ingredients we need to provide our members with healthy, delicious food. One of those business includes Southern Florida’s Farmer Mike’s.
Just a few miles north of Naples in Bonita Springs, Farmer Mike’s started more than 30 years ago as a small roadside produce stand and blossomed into one of the state’s premier growers. They have more than 200 acres. They grow squash, zucchini, beans, corn, strawberries, onions, eggplants, every kind of tomato and pepper you can think of, and even numerous types of ornamental and edible flowers. Many of these items you can pick yourself on the farm or stop in quickly at the farm stand — both of which can be done every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Recently, our culinary team had the opportunity to visit Farmer Mike’s for a tour given by Farmer Mike himself and his Sales Manager Dustin. They educated us on their growing processes of many different fruits and vegetables, in addition to some of the newer things they have been working on. They are always innovating and learning how to create the best organic products. They don’t use pesticides or any other harsh chemicals. They made a water irrigation system to save water during the rainy season to use during the dry season. They have beehives for pollinating their plants and have developed better vertical growing methods to maximize the use on their farm’s land.
We have built a strong relationship with Farmer Mike’s. We can place an order for products in less than 24 hours, and it comes from the farm’s fields to our hands. Supporting local businesses help to keep our communities prospering during challenging times.
Royal Poinciana Golf Club’s Executive Chef Juan Pablo de la Sota Riva Leal was born in Mexico City and studied at the Ambrosia Culinary Center. He later moved to Madrid, Spain, for an internship in a two-Michelin-Star Restaurant called La Broche. Juan Pablo has worked at many prestigious restaurants before joining “Team RP.”
Some of the veggie rows at Farmer Mike's farm.
Image by Stephanie Starr
“Fernando is a quintessential wine professional, and it is rare to find someone as accomplished. He is a leading light in wine expertise in the private golf club industry. GlenArbor Golf Club and its team of professionals have the industry accolades to give authority to this very prestigious and worthy award. It is a tremendous honor for the recipient and speaks loudly for their passion for the traditions of wine, the respect of nature, the land, and the game of golf. The Traditions in Wine Excellence Award, I believe, will become a legacy award that will continue well into the future.”
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
I was fortunate to attend the previous two “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” events in Bedford Hills, New York. Fernando Silva, Sommelier, Michael Ruggiero, Executive Chef, and team seamlessly delivered an unforgettable experience to the club’s members and guests. I believe that this significant annual event will be a gamechanger in the private golf and wine industry. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Fernando, how and when did the vision for the “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” come about?
GlenArbor Golf Club was inaugurated in 2001, and I joined the team in 2005. At that time, a wine program did not exist. The food and beverage manager selected some of the wines, and I remember that the members would bring numerous bottles of expensive wines from their private cellars to enjoy at the club.
I developed an interest in fine wine in 2009 and started reading and studying wines seriously in the following years. I signed up for every seminar and wine tasting I could find in Manhattan. This process and exposure to wine tastings and in-depth study of the wine world changed my approach to the fine dining experience. Every weekend I waited to see the wines the members would bring to dinner. I used to take pictures of the labels and researched the places of origin and the quality levels. All of that effort paid off and the members noticed. The food and beverage director at the time, Bryan Smithwick, promoted me to be the official Sommelier at the club.. Mr. Grant Gregory, the owner, gave me enough freedom to experiment and launch a series of wine tastings, which would take place at the end of every golf tournament to test our membership’s enthusiasm. The response was excellent; they wanted more and more wine experiences.
In 2011, I had to leave the USA for a year to wait for my green card approval. I decided to take a long-awaited wine field trip to discover and learn about the most famous wine regions. I traveled to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and then returned to Argentina to visit Mendoza’s vineyards.
In 2012, I returned to the USA and visited the Napa Valley in California. When I arrived back in New York, I simultaneously registered for the prestigious Court of Masters Sommeliers and the American Sommelier Association. After much work and study, I obtained the proper certifications.
GK: When and how did you introduce an official wine program at the club?
2013 was a period of test and trial. By 2014 the idea of a serious wine program had begun to take form in my mind. I am also a passionate artist, and in the the same year, my work featured at a prestigious art gallery in Manhattan for the first time. I had overcome some serious challenges and gained much education and knowledge, which I could not have done without the mentoring and support of the Gregory family and GlenArbor. I wanted to show my gratitude to the people that believed the most in me. I researched other private clubs and some notable wine clubs in the city. I reached out to Mr. Laurent Drouhin, whom I met through my studies at several wine seminars. I took his advice and expertise to create a new concept in the wine experience at GlenArbor.
GK: How did Mr. Drouhin help you develop this program?
Mr. Drouhin suggested that I discuss creating an effective and more interactive wine program for the club. Mr. Grant Gregory gave me some practical ways to execute long-term plans. After meeting with him several times, at the end of the conversation, he asked me to write down forty different ideas about implementing a wine program even if the idea sounded crazy!
“Family and tradition are some of the core values of our passion for wines in Burgundy and Oregon. When Fernando Silva contacted me on behalf of the Gregory Family to receive the GlenArbor Tradition in Wine Excellence Award, I felt tremendously honored., not personally but in the name of the entire Drouhin family current and past generations. GlenArbor, Golf and wine is a paradise for tradition and passion...”
~ Laurent Drouhin
Maison Joseph Drouhin
Image courtesy Maison Joseph Drouhin
GK: What were some of your final visions?
To create a unique new wine program, we needed to complete the first idea on the list, installing a state-of-the-art wine cellar located on the second floor in our Players Lounge. I reached out to Mr. Adam Strum and his team at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, they helped us create the cellar, and it was complete by 2017. The next step was to implement a marketing campaign among the members with a series of Wine Educational seminars to attract more attention not only from the members but also from wine aficionados in general.
I explained to Mr. Grant Gregory that we needed to create a series of awards to recognize the diverse personalities that impacted the wine world. Help came from Mr. Morgan Gregory with his true entrepreneur style; he came up with a name, mirroring the already existing “Traditions in Golf Awards.” The first “Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” was inaugurated in 2018. It was received with excellent attendance and created a pathway for more events at the club. The following week I presented Mr. Grant Gregory and Mr. Morgan Gregory at least 45 ways and strategies to create, execute and enhance a wine program for private clubs. After reviewing the concepts and removing half of them, he instructed me to select five or six of my most robust visions, and to my delight, he gave me the freedom to try them out at the club.
GlenArbor has always strived for excellence in multiple areas – golf, instruction, food, wine, and “the experience.” We have been blessed to identify and celebrate the leading industry winemakers, families, and originators but, it’s a much bigger platform. The Excellence in Wine Awards celebration recognizes those individuals who excel in moving the needle and those willing to create a platform, vision, and growth for the generations to follow
~ Morgan Gregory President
GlenArbor Golf Club
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
GK: What were some of your final visions?
To create a unique new wine program, we needed to complete the first idea on the list, installing a state-of-the-art wine cellar located on the second floor in our Players Lounge. I reached out to Mr. Adam Strum and his team at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, they helped us create the cellar, and it was complete by 2017.
The next step was to implement a marketing campaign among the members with a series of wine educational seminars to attract more attention not only from the members but also from wine aficionados in general. I explained to Mr. Grant Gregory that we needed to create a series of awards to recognize the diverse personalities that impacted the wine world. Help came from Mr. Morgan Gregory with his true entrepreneur style; he came up with a name, mirroring the already existing “Traditions in Golf Awards.” The first “Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” was inaugurated in 2018. It was received with excellent attendance and created a pathway for more events at the club.
GK: How do you select the recipients?
The recipient of the “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” does not necessarily have to be a winemaker. The main idea is to select from a group of well-known personalities in the wine industry that has an actual and long-term impact not only in the wine world but also in the hospitality industry, especially in the private club sector. Every recipient of the Award should have a strong respect for the hospitality industry, nature, the land, and the traditions of the game of golf. The Award is the perfect link between the World of Wine and the World of Golf!
GK: Who was the first recipient?
Our first recipient was Mr. Laurent Drouhin, co-owner of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, France. Laurent currently resides near New York City. He manages the market’s development and the brand’s image in the United States and the Caribbean. He graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Gestion in Paris.
The second recipient was Mr. Jean-Charles Boisset in 2019. He was born into the world of wine in the village of Vougeot, Burgundy, France. His lifelong passion for wine began as a child. He grew up above the cellars within the view of Château du Clos de Vougeot’s centuries-old vineyards, the epicenter and birthplace of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mr. Adam Strum, President of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, attended the event with his wife and family and was thrilled that Jean-Charles was the recipient.
“Exhilarating, inspiring, magnetic and so enchanting ! A vortex of joy, happiness, and a true experience of the senses... I feel honored and privileged to receive such recognition and to be part of such a fabulous and exciting collection of grand minds and energies ! Here’s to the rhythm of life and the swing of all senses in motion !”
~ Jean-Charles Boisset Vintner, Proprietor and Wine Entrepeneur
Image by Moanalani Jeffrey
The third recipient was Sir Nick Faldo in 2020. I discovered Sir Nick’s serious wine projects while I was attending a blind wine tasting seminar in Soho. One of my mentors, Mr. Phillipe Newlin, at that time was the Director of Duclot la Vinicole in New York mentioned that he recently came across a famous Golfer at The Harvard Club in Manhattan, Sir Nick Faldo. After several meetings, Sir Nick, invited him to review his wine projects.
I set my mind on inviting Sir Nick to be part of the event, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, that seemed impossible. The second option would be via video conferencing. After exhaustive months of uncertainty and back and forth emails, I received a video acceptance speech from Sir Nick, which I shared with Mr. Morgan Gregory immediately.
A day after receiving the video from Sir Nick, former American football linebacker and Steelers coach William Laird Cowher came to the club for dinner with his wife, famous rock singer Veronica Stigeler. Mr. Cowher is also a wine enthusiast and with the the proximity of the event, he enquired who was going to be the honoree this year. When I mentioned Sir Nick’s name, he reacted with a big smile saying, “Fernando, you know he is a good friend of mine, and it will be an honor for me to do the introduction and presentation of the Award.”
Thank you very much for this honor of Wine Person of the Year! I am beyond thrilled to receive something like this. If there were a Ryder Cup of wine, it would be Napa vs. Bordeaux, and I will be supporting the European team. I can assure you the playoffs will be really fun! I will be flying back to the United States soon, hope-fully, and will have a wee glass to celebrate!
~ Sir Nick Faldo
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
GK: How do you feel Covid-19 will affect the event in the future?
The year 2020 presented a real challenge for us with the strict enforcement of safety protocols in the hospitality industry. But it also set a new way of looking at the industry. As professionals, we have to adapt quickly to the changing times and demands of our membership. In our case, our wine events are planned according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) safety regulations, including testing staff, wearing gloves and masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitation of workstations, dining, and limited clubhouse areas. We maintain the number of attendees for this and all other events to the minimum recommended by the government.
GK: How do you work with Chef Ruggiero to come up with the menu for the GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence dinner?
Executive Chef Michael Ruggiero has an incredible resume and vast experience in fine cuisine. I begin by presenting Michael with the event’s theme and share my ideas while we taste the wines. Every wine and honoree has a different personality, and it shows in the way they represent their terroir, their aromas, and flavors, Sometimes we need to change some of the wines because the actual profile does not match the envisioned dish; there is a lot of creativity involved in the process and also flexibility. Everything progresses, evolving to present the best culinary experience for the members, guests, and staff.
“When tasked to pair food with amazing wines for an event like this the process takes on a variety of factors, cuisine origin of the wine, seasonal ability of ingredients, presentation, among a few thoughts. While the goal is to match flavors with each dish, I won’t let it restrict me from the goal of wanting to create this intense flavor profile. We have to honor the wine, attempt to rival each wines great finish but also not overpower the many delicate notes. We love these opportunities and these marquee events, we circle on the calendar be-cause they only happen a few times a year.”
~ Michael Ruggiero
GlenArbor Golf Club
The GlenArbor Clubhouse at dusk. Image courtesy GlenArbor Golf Club
Left: Dominic Calla, Executive Chef at Round Hill Club, Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Right: Olive Oil Poached Halibut
For ten years, I have wanted to produce an article featuring the Round Hill Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. I had heard from many influential industry people about the grace and talent of their Executive Chef Dominic Calla. It is an honor to bring his story to you. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Tell us about your background and how you developed an interest in cooking and cuisine.
My father Gaetano Calla was born in Calabria, Italy, and his family moved to the United States when he was just eight years of age. I grew up on Long Island. The majority of my family is still in Italy. I am the fifth or sixth generation born in this country, and I have an older brother and a couple of older cousins. They lived in Brooklyn. My early childhood was a typical Italian household; we had the Sunday dinners that lasted from two o’clock until seven o’clock, took naps, and watched soccer. That was my introduction to food. I don’t think it held any meaning for me at that time.
GK: Where was your first job?
A little restaurant in Ocean Beach, New York, called the Sand Bar and Grill. It’s not in operation anymore, but that was my first introduction to the kitchen. I was 15, and I washed dishes, scrubbed mussels, cleaned calamari, peeled potatoes, and basically performed the kitchen’s grunge work. I enjoyed it, and it was where the initial attraction began. Being there got me out of my head. It was a place where I didn’t have to think about anything else that was going on. I could focus on work. I enjoyed the people that I worked with, the pace of it, and the chaos. The thrill of getting through to the end of the night as a team was memorable.
I started traveling when I turned 16. I worked as a line cook in California for a year and a half, then I did six months in Maryland, and a year or so in Athens, Georgia. When I was 20, I moved back to New York and started a job as a line cook at The Inn Between in Ocean Bay Park for the summer. The Executive Chef Scott Everett offered me the Sous Chef position, and I accepted.
Towards the end of the summer season, I was looking for something to fill in the time until the next season. My brother and his then-fiance moved to West Virginia, so I decided to go with them after the season closed.
When I arrived in West Virginia, I found a small restaurant, Mario’s Fish Bowl. It was a little dive bar and restaurant in Morgantown. They were opening up a fine dining restaurant next door, and I ended up landing a job to open up this restaurant for them. I had no idea what I was doing! None. I had never built or designed a kitchen. I walked into an old automotive shop, and there was a car lift in the kitchen, and they said, “Dominic, this is your kitchen.” Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. There was no internet back then, and I had to search through catalogs to research kitchen equipment and the rest of what was needed. I spent six to eight months designing that kitchen, and I succeeded. I wrote the menus and had them ready to open.
After that I returned to New York, which was always my home base. Shortly before the September 11th attacks, I decided to take a South Florida position in Naples as a line cook at Gabrielo’s of New York. It was a fine dining restaurant. They had a grand piano and celebrity clientele such as Carol Burnett and Tony Curtis. The Executive Chef got fired, and that was my first introduction to the Executive Chef role. I was just 23.
Once again, I had no idea what I was doing. However, I was still learning when I took over as Executive Chef at Gabrielo’s. That is when the light switch turned on for me. Previously it was a means to travel; I could go wherever I wanted and would pick up a position at that location. Now I could see that this was a career. I wasn’t a great manager or leader, but I knew how to operate a kitchen, write menus, and order. I made a ton of horrible dishes, and I’m not even kidding. (laughs) The internet was in its infancy, so magazines like Food and Wine and Art Culinaire are where I found inspiration. I would dine at other restaurants, and if I loved a dish, I would try to recreate it. Trial and error and pushing myself were a big part of my career path. So much of my early career was me biting off way more than I could chew! I stayed at Gabrielo’s for two years, and it was excellent training and boosted my confidence.
At that point, I found a restaurant group that owned three restaurants in Athens, Georgia, a French bistro called Basil Press, a high-end steak house called Porterhouse Grill, and a brewpub, Copper Creek Brewing Company. All three restaurants were in downtown Athens, Georgia. They were looking for an Executive Chef of all three, and I went for it, and I got it.
I had a sous chef at each restaurant. I still worked the line every night, but I was introduced to three restaurants’ inventory and mass ordering. I learned how to set up prime vendor agreements and ordering under the company name and not each restaurant. Andy Urell, one of the owners, was a chef. Michael White, another owner, was a server and bartender who was studying to be a master sommelier. It was great because I got a lot of training from Andy, who taught me a lot about French cuisine. Michael taught me a lot about wine. My time there was instrumental to my career, and I stayed for two years. After that, I decided to move back to Naples, Florida, and look for the next step in my career.
GK: How did you land in the private golf and country club industry?
I applied for a supervisor position at The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs, Florida, which is getting closer to a Country Club environment. They offered me a sous chef position, and then a year and a half later promoted me to the chef de cuisine of their fine dining seafood restaurant. I had a lot of fun at this restaurant. I had no food costs. I could order whatever I wanted. I ordered $70,000 worth of Chef’s Garden product in one year. I got to play around with whatever food I wanted. It was a seafood restaurant, and at one point, I had 18 different catches on my menu. It was fish from Honolulu Seafood Company and Europe. I brought in Chinese Black Chickens because I had heard how good the soup is with them. I even ordered duck tongues, and I did Buffalo Duck Tongues as an appetizer at the bar. I continued to be enthralled for another year and a half.
The executive sous chef position for the entire hotel opened up, and I applied for it internally. I got promoted to the hotel’s executive sous chef at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs. This was another huge learning curve because now I got pulled out of the kitchen and my little comfort zone playing with food every day. The Executive Chef there at the time was John Benson. He’s now a General Manager at a Hyatt in Hawaii. John Benson started to teach me the other side of operations, such as scheduling, forecast budgets and carrying myself as a professional. I stayed in that position until 2010.
I was burnt out by this time as they had me taking interim chef positions at other properties in South Beach that needed over-the-top menus but relied on temporary kitchen staff. I left Hyatt about two months later. I needed a break.
GK: What did you do during your break?
A group of executive chefs and executive sous chefs in Naples worked as private chefs for folks who rented the big mansions for a week. I did this for a year, and I then wanted to explore working in a private golf or country club. I had enough confidence and a great career portfolio that would overpower the lack of a culinary degree.
GK: Tell us about your first private club experience.
I was hired as the executive sous chef at The Hillsboro Club in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. It’s a small racket club, but it’s been there forever. The members live there for about seven months of the year. So you see these people for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. If something is wrong at breakfast, they will let you know at lunch, and then at dinner, they would tell their friends. The next morning they’d come in for breakfast to see if you fixed it. It drove me crazy! It wasn’t like a hotel where they check-in Friday and check-out Sunday and see you later. No, no, it was more like Ms. Montgomery was upset with breakfast, and I’m going to see her the next morning!
It was a wake-up call to me, plus I needed to learn everyone’s names by heart and talk to every member during service. But for some reason, it felt a little better. It wasn’t always about the bottom line. Your food cost was 23.4% in the hotel, and then they want you to come down to 22%. At Hillsboro, I could blow the budget on an event for the members because we wanted to create a memorable experience. We could make up for the budget later in the season.
I stayed at Hillsboro for three years, and during that time, I had met David Meyers from David Meyers and Associates over the phone. Two and a half years into my position at Hillsboro, I gave him a call to see if he could help me gain a position in Richmond, Virginia. My brother had moved there, and we hadn’t seen each other in years. He called to tell me how great the food scene was. David had found a position at Hermitage Country Club. I flew to Richmond, did all the tasting tests, but the food and beverage director didn’t like my background and flatly said no.
I went back to Florida, and David called and told me that he might have something at The Country Club of Virginia (CCV). David was having a conversation with Phil Kiester, the General Manager at CCV, and Phil told David that he needed a chef to run the James River clubhouse. David’s said, “I’ve got a guy in Florida who is trying to move up here. He has a colorful background.” Phil asked, “can he do the job?” And David replied, “yes.” From there, I was fast-tracked to CCV.
After interviewing and some cooking demos, I took over as Executive Chef of the James River clubhouse. The first day I showed up at work, the Executive Chef of the entire property Gary Whitecotton welcomed me and then said, “This is my last day. I have resigned.” I remember calling David Meyers and said, “what did you do to me? You just started me at a club, and the Executive Chef is leaving on my first day, and then three weeks in, the Executive Sous Chef had a month off.”
I settled in quickly and adjusted. After a few months, we started interviewing for the next Executive Chef position of the entire compound. Keith Armstrong was one of the candidates, and fortunately, they hired him. I immediately connected with Keith. He was no stranger to clubs and knew the routines well. Keith was an outstanding mentor for me for the next three-plus years.
We did many creative events and had a garden that we eventually turned into an event space. We started doing parties at an old farmhouse on the property. We were coming up with many ideas together; we fed off each other. CCV had signed up to do the Dominion Energy Charity Classic; we worked really hard to plan and execute menus and all the other facets of this PGA event. The first year was the most challenging as we planned 200% of what we didn’t need and six percent of what we did need!
The following season, Keith turned up in my driveway with this huge wooden backdrop with things hanging on it. He said, “we’re going to have stations, and we’re going to have backdrops. They will have lanterns hanging from it and flowers.” His creativity was endless.
After that second PGA Tour event, I learned that Keith took the Westchester Country Club position. After another year at CCV, I started looking around for an executive chef position where I was the chef in charge of the property. I gained a job at the Dominion Club. It was owned by the Heritage Golf Group who had about nine properties. I had the impression it was a financially stable operation. They hired me to turn around the food and beverage operations, and I would have everything that I needed to make it happen. However, when I arrived at the club, it was nothing that was painted. I called Phil Keister at CCV and told him that I did not want to work in a corporate golf club. They were in talks to buy and take over the Heritage Golf Group properties. I handed them my resignation and thought, “that was a crazy nightmare.”
Phil asked me to return to CCV as it was a few months before the next PGA Tour event. I stayed for seven months and worked with John York, who took over from Keith. It was great for a time, but Phil and I knew this would not be a long-term arrangement.
GK: How did you land at Round Hill Club?
I got a phone call from Keith, and he told me about an opening at Round Hill Club (RHC) in Greenwich, Connecticut. He said, “RHC is right up your alley.” I got off the phone with Keith and called David Myers, and I said, “David let’s go with this.”
I interviewed with Brian Walshe, the general manager, and his assistant GM Mary Schaffer. They flew me up here for a night, and a day later, they asked me to return for a second interview. I returned and enjoyed dinner with Brian and Mary. We got along very well, and it was very much a personality fit. Positions like this one at RHC only become available every 10-15 years.
I continued with the interview process and the cooking demo, and about a day later, Brian offered me the position, and it was like, “okay!” I started in September of 2019. I experienced the end of the golf season and the entire holiday season, and then we shut down in March.
GK: That was a shocking time for all; how did you find the positives?
During this Covid time, I tried to find the positive side of it. I used the time to get to know many of the members better as it was not as busy. I made it my mission to learn more about what they want, what they like, what they don’t like, and how much I can push them to try new things. They had the same chef for eight years and then the same chef for 20 years; I had my work cut out for me for sure.
Brian and Mary were great presenting me to the members. There are way fewer members at RHC than CCV, and it was excellent as I could talk to them freely and ask them questions about what they want and need.
GK: Apart from Keith Armstrong and your work peers, tell us some of the Chefs that inspire you.
Chef Gunter Seeger, the German Chef, who anchored himself at the forefront of Atlanta’s fine dining scene for 25 years. I started to follow chefs like Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Gabriel Kruether. They inspired me immensely. I knew at a club, I couldn’t make the food they were doing at their restaurants, but I could experiment with larger versions.
It’s an art form in a club, more so than a restaurant, because you want to be creative and you want to present amazing things, but you still have to be not too big and not too small. It has to be presented well, and you’re able to do something fine, but in a proportion that’s going to make everyone happy.
GK: Have you changed much of the menu in your year and a half here?
There’s always a portion of the menu that you can’t touch. However, slowly I’ve started making small changes to a couple of them. Currently, I have about half the menu that I can change. That’s 12 or 13 dishes. The first Wednesday of every month, we change five dishes on the dinner menu and four on the lunch menu. I would come up with new specials each week. We became bold with the specials. I was making Peking Duck as a special to see if they order it.
GK: What are your culinary plans at Round Hill Club in the future?
I have quickly come to realize this is a special place. The membership has been so welcoming and a pleasure to get to know. My first six months were what you would expect, the end of the golf season, the beginning of paddle season, and all the holidays. We close for three weeks each March, and the first half of my season was perfect. When lockdowns began mid-March, it was time to make a plan and strategize. We started offering curbside menus and making cooking videos in my kitchen at home for the membership. We increased the number of wine dinners we did and got creative with every event we would have normally had.
Despite this past year, we have continued to make strides forward for the membership. We change the menu monthly and are always running different specials. As the chef, I continue to teach and develop my staff. I ordered a whole swordfish to show the team how to break it down. We recently brought half of a hog to teach the staff how to butcher it and make charcuterie. I continue to try and plan trips for the culinary team to visit farms or other clubs to keep their interests peaked. We are getting ready for our March closure again, and I am excited that we have a hectic season coming up. I am looking forward to getting back to normal and offering all we do for the membership and more.
Image by Ambria Michelelle
Derin Moore, CMC, Executive Chef at Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia, USA
Image right - Prime Beef Tartare
Reynolds Lake Oconee is one of the most stunning Golf Real Estate communities in the country, and to match the beauty of the community, they hired Derin Moore, Certified Master Chef (CMC), to upgrade the culinary elements from average to sensational. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Where did you grow up, and who, and what influenced your interest in cooking?
I was born and raised in Southeast Michigan, but I spent the summers with my grandpa in Orchard Park, New York. That’s where the spark of cooking and fresh food began. I was very young and one of six children, four boys, and two girls. I was the middle child. I loved my grandpa. He used to pick me up right from school, and then I’d spend the entire summer with him.
We were a large family, and every Sunday, he would always have people over for dinner. He had a big house, a vast garden, and a lot of land. We would plant and pick his garden all summer long. Grandpa did a lot of canning, and he would make creamed corn and jellies out of the fruit trees. There were always activities outside of the kitchen; however, I’d still be up making homemade muffins before church. As I got older, we did a lot of harvesting and cooking together.
When I was in 10th grade, Grandpa took me on a trip across the New York State Thruway to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He knew Joseph Amendola, a culinary mainstay at the CIA in Hyde Park, New York. Amendola gave me a tour of the facilities, and I was mesmerized; he had such an extensive knowledge of his craft. He was known as the teacher who teaches the teachers. After a few days on the property, I was hooked.
GK: What year was that?
It was around 1982; at that time, the CIA was still relatively small. All the master chefs were there, including Ferdinand Metz, the President, Tim Ryan, and Mark Erickson. I had found myself in an ideal learning environment, and I was just 18. Many of the chefs in my class were older, and many were changing careers; they could all go out on the town, but because I was underaged, I just knuckled down and studied. It was a different school at that time, but it was an excellent education, and I made a lot of great contacts that I still have today. As time went by, I got on the United States Olympic Team while getting ready for my Master Chef exam. A lot of my instructors at that time became mentors and pushed me into the competition direction. I had graduated CIA by the time I was 20. After that, I returned to Michigan.
GK: What did you do next?
The Detroit area was bustling with higher-end cuisine and the integrity of good food and good cooking. There were many certified master chefs in Michigan, and I was able to easily find work in fine dining restaurants, where some of the best chefs could mentor me. These restaurants (The Bijou, The Pike Street Restaurant, and The Golden Mushroom) were all servicing celebrities such as Aretha Franklin, mainstay executives from the big three automotive companies, and sports teams. You don’t think of Detroit as a restaurant town anymore, but there are many great clubs there. They’re trying to come back, but there was a lot more support with the big three being so successful, and the auto industry thrived. I was in the right place at the right time, and I learned from some of the best chefs in the area for 12 years. I worked with Brian Polcyn, who wrote three books with Michael Ruhlman about charcuterie. Milos Cihelka, who was like the godfather of sorts for most of the successful chefs in Michigan, mentored Brian Polcyn, who in return mentored me for eight years at Pike Street. My gosh, I got the benefit from those relationships in the Detroit area.
GK: Tell us about the ACF and US Olympic team competitions.
I had an opportunity to enter culinary competitions hosted by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). I competed in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
Everybody was competing in cold food competitions, and you’d get critiqued by Ferdinand Metz, Tim Ryan, and Mark Erickson. That was a precious experience, and it was fun to win gold medals. After that, I was invited to try out to compete on the US Olympic team. Keith Keough was the team manager and the ACF President. I traveled and competed from 1996-2000 on the National team. I was blessed to have traveled to Scotland, Switzerland, and Germany twice. The practices were at Disney.
GK: Where were you working during your US Olympic team years?
I was at The Golden Mushroom and Charlotte Country Club with General Manager Damon DiOrio. When I left the team, I went to Dunwoody Country Club in Georgia to work with John Knobbe, the General Manager. I was only off the Olympic team for a short while before I got my Certified Master Chef (CMC) accreditation in February of 2003.
I wasn’t looking to leave Dunwoody Country Club when I received a call from Medinah Country Club in Schaumburg, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. I interviewed with Michael Wheeler, who was the General Manager. I stayed five years, it was a great club with a considerable reputation and fabulous members, but it was so cold in the winters and snowed way too much! I was not looking for a new position when I got a phone call from Lawrence McFadden, who at one time was the corporate chef for The Ritz-Carlton and transitioned to the Food & Beverage Director at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
Lawrence called me and said, “Hey, listen, you are familiar with five stars, five-diamond, and we’d love for you to come to talk to us about this job.” I said, “Lawrence, I’m running an operation with four food outlets and 45 culinarians, and you’re asking me to come to one with 20 outlets and 170 culinarians?” Regardless, I took the role.
GK: How did you land at Reynolds Lake Oconee?
It was 2012, and my wife and I got tired of moving around. It was fun during our twenties and thirties, but you know, we had three young kids who were starting to get older and had never grown roots anywhere. I was in and out in four or five years at several jobs because attractive offers at prestigious places kept presenting themselves. We’re bringing our kids along, but we realized that they hadn’t had a chance to develop friends and relationships. We decided to pick a part of the country, and then I’ll focus on finding a job there. We liked the Georgia area from when we lived here when I was at Dunwoody Country Club. We moved back to the area, and then the opportunity came up at Reynolds Lake Oconee. The kids were starting college, so it was good timing to make one more move.
In our business as chefs, you don’t get to sit in the big jobs and the rewarding careers unless you’ve gained that experience. You can’t manage larger kitchens and multi-facet operations without an extensive background.
Reynolds offers a multitude of opportunities and is in a great location. You’re in the mountains in two hours, and you’re down on the beach in four hours. We are right in the middle of everything and can easily get to anywhere in the world from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport just down the road. When I got here, we had several clubhouses, but they were all very similar traditional menus. When you look at how the property is laid out, there was no reason for members to navigate to one of the other clubhouses; they just stayed with the clubhouse nearest to their home. That was one thing that I noticed when I started in July of 2015 here at Reynolds. When I assessed the membership needs, I wanted to define themes in restaurants with distinctly different menus and styles of dining. Doing this offers our members a unique dining experience from each of the restaurants across Reynolds. I also wanted to implement seasonal changes. We do three full property menu changes a year for all the restaurants, snack bars, and cafes. Fast forward five years, the members will ask us, “when are we getting another menu change?” We’ve gone through that whole cycle where the membership looks forward to it and expects it.
We opened The National Tavern, a hybrid of one of the restaurants I did in Naples called Bites. It was a tapas-sharing, casual concept that we created for the lobby. We put this concept together pretty quickly, from the menus to the china. This concept has become very popular at The Tavern, and pre-Covid, we were five deep at the bar and bustling every night.
GK: Are you busy when the Masters comes to Augusta National?
April is the start of the season, and the Masters takes place just about an hour down the road at Augusta National. Folks come to stay here and go down to the tournaments daily. Every house and room is booked.
GK: Tell us about the restoration that Jack Nicklaus recently did at Great Waters.
Jack Nicklaus oversaw a total restoration of the Great Waters course, which reopened in the fall of 2019. At Great Waters, we have The Overlook Restaurant and the Waterview Pub with a bar, indoor and outdoor seating, and a full kitchen. Both offer great views of the lake, and I like to keep the pub golfer friendly with casual pub fare.
It took me a little while to determine what menu items appealed to our members when I started. Most of our members travel and eat in high-end fine dining restaurants, so I had to balance that level of expectation and find menus that appeal to our members every day. In the end, it’s their club, and my job is to keep them happy by offering a selection of menus to give them different experiences to enjoy.
GK: What do your peers say when they visit you at Reynolds?
When I have colleagues come in, they say, “Man, you have everything from chicken fingers all the way up to luxury fine dining menus?” My reply, “I now have ten different dining locations to make that happen!”
GK: Tell us a little about Chef Zouhair Bellout at The Creek Club at Reynolds?
I enjoy working with him, all I have to do is poke him a couple of times, and then he wants to brainstorm. We come up with items that sell, what doesn’t sell, what’s working, and what’s not working. Many of our chefs are from different cultures or have traveled to many countries, so we can bring those influences to create our menus here. It is gratifying. Chef Zouhair is from Morocco, so once a month, we run a traditional tagine special for the members, which is going very well. Zouhair loves to go to the markets on his day off. He brings back the most incredible produce locally and worldwide to integrate into his specials.
GK: What are your plans at Reynolds Lake Oconee in the next few years?
We’re opening up new areas of development, and we’re continuing to see a great demographic mix of people move to the lake with a trend of younger buyers, especially with expanding work-from-home opportunities. We have a great variety of community members from different backgrounds and ages, which gives us so much freedom to create menus and events for all age ranges—from the grandparents, grandkids, young families, celebrities, and professionals.
GK: What new and current events do you have in 2021? Are you excited, and why?
Events, for the most part, are still on hold for 2021 due to Covid. One program that we have started over the last few months has become very popular for members is our meal kits. Every 2-3 weeks, I’ll offer a meal kit for two and shoot a video on preparing the meal. The kits include all ingredients portioned out for the meal, and I demonstrate how to prepare the meal from start to finish, including a select wine pairing from one of our sommeliers.
The 16th green at Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia, USA.
Image by Evan Schiller, courtesy Reynolds Lake Oconee
October 21st, 2020, Stamford, Connecticut – Golf Kitchen®, the only organization dedicated to identifying and showcasing the world’s finest golf and country club culinary offerings—has launched an international certification program for club food and beverage teams, a way for the most sophisticated and advanced private clubs to distinguish themselves from their competition.
The Golf Kitchen Certification of Culinary Excellence is based on a rigid set of criteria and a club’s ability to produce an exemplary product, as evaluated by an independent review of the entire food and beverage operation, including but not limited to:
“Private club members have no way of knowing when they’re thinking of joining a club, or even when they’re in the club, the quality and caliber of food,” said Diana DeLucia, founder of Golf Kitchen who has amassed 10 years of experience reviewing and visiting private golf and country club kitchens. “This is the first time that a set of standards have been packaged into a certification program for culinary operations of golf and country clubs and will be the new benchmark for excellence.”
The evaluation criteria and process were created by an advisory board comprised of noted private club managers, chefs, and culinary consultants. As part of the process, clubs must complete and submit an application to be considered for certification, followed by an on-site evaluation and a series of interviews with the culinary team and management, when it is safe to do so.
DeLucia believes that club dining rooms will become the “go-to” restaurants of the future, an observation made even more likely in the era of COVID. “With more younger people coming back to private clubs, in particular younger couples and families joining clubs and moving into golf communities, the club’s culinary offerings are increasingly important,” she said.
The inaugural certified clubs include Sebonack Golf Club, Royal Poinciana Golf Club, Addison Reserve Golf Club, Richland Country Club, GlenArbor Golf Club, Liberty National Golf Club, Greenwich Country Club and Naples National Golf Club.
For more information visit https://www.golfkitchen.com/certification.html or call (860) 406-1782.
# # #
About Golf Kitchen
Golf Kitchen was founded in 2014 by Diana DeLucia, an internationally recognized culinary writer/photographer, to recognize private golf and country clubs for the quality of their culinary offerings. The Golf Kitchen portfolio includes a bi-annual magazine, books, special culinary events, and an annual program, the Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards.
Hunter Public Relations
Please enjoy a preview of one of the many creative recipes in the new book by Farmer Lee Jones.
Yields 8-9 dozen
Beet marshmallows bring a grown-up twist to classic s’mores when roasted over a fire. They’re also perfect for old-fashioned root-vegetable casseroles. Play around with using juice from other vegetables. Instead of corn syrup, you could use honey or maple syrup. Figure on this taking about 5 hours before the marshmallows are ready to eat.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine half the beet juice with the gelatin. Have the whisk attachment standing by. Let sit until gelatin is softened.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining beet juice with the granulated sugar, cor11 syrup, a11d salt and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 240°F, 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat.
Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. With the bowl in place and the machine on medium speed, gradually and carefully pour the hot beet syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
Increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture becomes very thick, bright pink, and is lukewarm, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla seeds during the last mi11ute of whipping.
Lightly spray two 9 by 13-inch baki11g pans with the vegetable oil.fe
In a bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cor11starch. Dust the baking pans with some of the mixture and shake the pans to evenly coat the surf ace; tap out any excess onto a plate and reserve.
Using a lightly oiled spatula, transfer the beet mixture to the pans and spread evenly. Dust the top with just barely enough of the remaining cornstarch mixture to lightly cover; reserve the extra for later use. Let stand uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.
Turn the marshmallows out of the baking pans onto a cutting board and cut into I-inch squares. Lightly dust all sides of the marshmallows with the remaining cornstarch mixture.
Recipe by Dominic Calla, Executive Chef at Round Hill Club, Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Shuck the oysters separating the bottom abductor mussel as well.
Cut the tops off of quail eggs with a knife and separate the yolk and the white.
Gently roll the egg yolk into each oyster shell. Place one piece of Uni in each oyster shell.
Place a spoonful of caviar into each oyster shell. Arrange oysters on top of the salt, pink peppercorns, and microgreens.
Serve immediately after assembly.
Chef Note: Any left-over Uni can be turned into Uni butter by puréeing in a food processor and adding softened butter, lemon juice, and sea salt. Roll the butter in parchment paper and freeze to be used in another dish.
Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, “1583”, (oak aged) Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2019.
These ingredients are earthy, briny and rich (yolk.). I would look for a wine with a bit of oak/texture to hold up to the egg but a salinity that will marry with the oyster. ~ Mary Schaffer, Assistant General Manager
Ed Stone, Executive Chef at Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey, USA
Image by Michael J. Fiedler, www.working-journal.com
I have always had a robust interest in the history that surrounds private golf clubs. Baltusrol is no exception. Upon entering the Clubhouse, I was taken on a journey back in golf history. I was working with esteemed Executive Chef Ed Stone, and at the same time, mesmerized by the passion Baltusrol has for golf and preserving its heritage. I am proud that this story will become a part of that. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Where did you grow up, and where did you get your first taste of kitchen life?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to parents who had to move a lot as we were a military family; however, I have lived in New Jersey for most of my adult life. Wherever we lived, no matter what, we always made room for a garden to grow fresh fruit and vegetables and things of that nature. My earliest memories are of fresh Bibb lettuce, fresh corn, and green beans. My grandfather of my father’s side raised bees, so we always had honey. I can’t really say this inspired my career, but it was my introduction to fresh ingredients.
When I was in high school, many of my classmates worked in restaurants to make extra cash. I was 15 when I got my first job, and they used to leave the window cracked open for me to climb into early mornings so I could clean the restaurant before anyone arrived. I worked through high school, and it became time to decide what I would do as a career. I liked working with my hands. I liked getting the immediate gratification of cooking. However, in the late seventies, early eighties, it was not considered a respectable career like it is today. My mother would cry and tell me that it was a job that people took if they didn’t go to college, but it did not dissuade me from pursuing a career in the kitchen.
I worked in local restaurants, and then when I got serious about cooking as a career, I had the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) on my radar. It was 1980. When I started at the CIA, Ferdinand Metz was the President, and it was when we all had to wear white pants. Classes after ours switched to the checkered pants; that’s how we defined ourselves as the white pants guys. (laughs) It was not what it is today, but it got me started. There was a chef there that took a shine to me, Roland Henin, a French chef. He was probably one of the tougher instructors. He would make people cry. He would yell at you if you made Hollandaise sauce and it was too yellow. He caused quite the backup at the CIA as he failed so many people, and they would need to take classes a second time.
When I graduated, Christian Delouvrier, a renowned Master Chef from the Maurice in Manhattan, sent a contact to the CIA as he was looking for some young talent. Roland Henin recommended me, and that is how I got my first position out of culinary school. Delouvrier was an excellent chef, he was older, and his restaurant Maurice was inside the Park Meridian Hotel in Manhattan. The pay was lousy back then, and we barely made $7.50 an hour. He was old-school French and did not have much respect for the American guys. One time he told me that I wasted my time and money going to culinary school! I spent about five and a half years working for him, and when I left, I was his executive sous chef.
GK: Were there any notable chefs working the line with you at the Maurice?
I worked the line with some excellent up-and-coming stars such as Ed Brown, who is now known from the Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center. Throughout my time there, we had numerous guest chef appearances, such as Jean-Louis Palladin, Marc Haberlin, and Adolphe Bosser, to name a few. I was extremely fortunate to cook alongside those renowned chefs. I even had the opportunity to train under Jean-Louis Palladin for about a year. I left there with solid knowledge, and I still stay in touch with my line team to this day.
GK: Where did you go after Maurice?
I took an Executive Chef position at the Grand Bay Hotel, which was across the road from Le Bernardin on 51st Street in Manhattan. It was a small boutique hotel, and Harry Cipriani had space below. It did not work out for me as they wanted to send me down to Coconut Grove, Florida. I did not want to be a corporate chef as they move you around at a moment’s notice. I was starting a family, and my wife, Ann, had family here in New Jersey. I left after a short period of time and secured a position at The Bernards Inn in New Jersey.
New Jersey, at that time, was not known for cuisine, but I still wanted to go. I heard about it through a friend, and I thought I would go check it out. The Bernards Inn was a boutique hotel in downtown Bernardsville. The owners were putting a lot of money towards renovations but were having trouble getting it up and running. Although it was a challenge coming out of a Manhattan restaurant, I took on the role.
When I first arrived at The Bernards Inn, the dining program had an unfavorable reputation. When I took over, I updated the cuisine to reflect my French training and blended it with American cuisine. We established an award-winning dining program and received various honors, including the Mobil Four-Star Award and the AAA Four Diamond Award. It was rewarding to see our hard work pay off and for the Inn to garner such well-earned acclaim. I was at The Bernards Inn for 15 years and had partial ownership.
GK: Tell us about the foundation you started while you were at The Bernards Inn.
In 1993, I started a charity foundation called Dinner of Hope with Chef Craig Sheldon, Chef Michael Schlow, and Diane Carr from the HobNob in Martha’s Vineyard. The foundation was raising money for children’s charities across the state. We would bring fine dining chefs such as Eric Ripert and other great chefs to cook a course each, and we would sell the tickets. While I was president, we raised over $2 million for children in need. It was a lot of fun working with those guys, and in 2001, we handed over the reins to a foundation, Creative Heartworks.
GK: How did you land at Baltusrol Golf Club?
My partners at The Bernards Inn sold their shares in 2002, and I thought it was time for me to try something new. I needed to reinvent myself to keep things interesting. A member of The Bernards Inn staff, Judy Mann, was hired by Baltusrol as the catering director. Judy knew that I was a little discontent with where I was, and she asked me to get my resume together and start applying for positions. I took her advice and started to explore possibilities. Judy had mentioned my name to Kevin Vitale, the General Manager at Baltusrol. He reached out to me, and even though I had never considered a golf club as an option, I went for an interview.
GK: How was the interview?
I will always remember that first interview with Kevin. He would finish my sentence, and I would finish his! We had and still have an excellent connection. I thought to myself that this is too good to be true. I asked Kevin if he was sure the club was serious about making the changes I was hoping for. I was accustomed to ordering from The Chef’s Garden and other great purveyors. I knew I needed to hear this from the Executive Committee that they wanted to make changes in a real way. They were all very committed. That is how it came about. That was 2004, and after I accepted the position, I had one vendor tell me I was committing career suicide by coming to a private club! I went with my gut this time. Kevin is really a big part of why I am here.
GK: This is an impressive place from my perspective, the amount of golf memorabilia here and the history, the art is just astounding.
I was impressed. At the time, the club was going through a transformation. It was beautiful, but you could see things needed to be updated. Especially the kitchen, it was tired. (chuckles) Kevin had told me that they were planning a kitchen renovation, and I am so thankful they did as I would not have been happy long term in the condition that it was in at that time.
GK: So how long did that renovation take?
I started working here in May 2004, and we started the kitchen renovation on January 2nd, 2005; and we got it done before the PGA event that same year! It was a big year, that is for sure.
GK: In 2004 and 2005, that was about the time when the Food Network became popular. Chefs were becoming their own brand, and fine dining was trendy. How did that reflect on the membership?
Our members are world travelers, and they would have eaten at some of the finest restaurants in the world, so I could not understand why the cuisine at the club was not held to a higher standard. It was my goal to change that.
GK: Tell us about Mr. Jim Davies.
Jim Davies is a member and a real foodie, and a genuinely nice man. He was a member of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in in New York, and they would have dinners and tasting menus with great wines at The Sea Grill, Le Bernardin, and Perse in Manhattan. Mr. Davies was incredibly supportive and requested I do a tasting menu at the club. He wanted to allow me to express myself creatively with a dinner. He was a big supporter.
GK: How do you work with your sommelier when creating your menus?
Once we have the menu, Phil Wheeler, our Assistant General Manager and wine expert, will bring a selection of wines to me, and we will taste each one. I have my two sous chefs taste the wines together and get some feedback from them. We listen to what Phil’s comments are, and we take it from there.
GK: Tell us about the fire at the club in 2019; how did it affect you and your team?
I was fortunate. People always assume a fire is going to be from the kitchen. But it was actually caused by some work being done on the slate roof of the Clubhouse. We were able to manage as the kitchen was untouched. The very next day, we were serving barbecue to the membership downstairs.
GK: Did you get emotional when that fire happened? Was that hard to take?
Watching the water come down into that trophy room was emotional and heartbreaking. They had already renovated everything and then lost it before our eyes. When you have worked at a club as majestic as Baltusrol for 15 years, you become invested in it. The memorabilia, the paintings, and trophies were salvaged, and our membership and staff showed great resiliency, as they always have when our club has faced adversity. It was a good feeling to see it be put back together, and now it is even better than it ever was.
GK: It has been a challenging two years for Baltusrol. How is business during COVID-19 in the last 12 months?
When members felt comfortable returning to the club this past summer, we were busy, we lost the banquet element, but the dining element was much busier than most years. With more members dining at the club, I could push to elevate the food level because they could not go to fine dining restaurants. There were new challenges every day, but I am fortunate to work with a great team of talented and creative chefs who worked exceptionally hard to ensure our members enjoyed an exceptional dining experience at every visit.
GK: What are your plans for Baltusrol in the coming years?
The last two years have been uniquely challenging at Baltusrol. Still, our membership has been incredibly supportive and patient as we navigated a clubhouse fire, major restoration of our Lower Course, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our staff is committed to maintaining a safe and enjoyable environment at Baltusrol. I am looking forward to welcoming our members and guests back to the club this spring as we prepare for a milestone season.
The club is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year, and we will be reopening our restored Lower Course in May. In 2023, we will welcome the best golfers in the world to Baltusrol for the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and we will host our third PGA Championship in 2029. This is an exciting time for our club, and I am excited to be a part of it. Baltusrol has a history of raising the standard of excellence in the industry, and I want to continue to explore new ways to elevate our dining program to new heights.
Recipe by Steve Pinheiro, Restaurant Manager at The Creek Club, Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia, USA
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.
Top with Kenwood sparkling.
Garnish with orange twist.
The dining room at The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia, USA
Image courtesy Reynolds Lake Oconee