Blake Burgard, Executive Chef at The Tuxedo Club, Tuxedo Park, New York, USA
Recipe right: Duo of Duck
I met Blake Burgard through his colleague and friend Michael Ruggiero, who had previously worked at The Tuxedo Club as the Executive Chef. Blake traveled to Golf Kitchen Punta Mita in Mexico to play golf and cook alongside Ruggerio in April of 2019 and then cooked at the Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards at GlenArbor Golf Club in August of 2019. He has an excellent manner, and with his roots being from New Orleans, Chicago and Westchester, he has undoubtedly refined his culinary talents. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: When did you decide you were interested in cooking?
I am originally from New Orleans, and I have always been interested in cooking. Everyone in my family is an excellent cook! My mom and both of my grandmothers were great cooks. Gloria, who babysat for my family for two generations, was also a great cook. In New Orleans, food is such a big part of the culture. If you were a dinner guest at someone’s house, you always brought a dish along, and we would all talk about our recipes.
When I was younger, my father used to have to take clients out to lunch regularly. When I wasn’t in school, I was lucky enough to get brought along on quite a few business lunches at some very nice restaurants. This opened my eyes to high-end dining.
I have worked in a restaurant/kitchen of some shape or form since I was 15 years of age. I started as a busboy in a local neighborhood restaurant and moved into the kitchen and have been in a kitchen ever since.
I went to school in New Orleans and after high school, I did a brief stint at Louisiana State University (LSU), then attended the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA. When I was there, I did an internship in Chicago for Edward Leonard CMC and wound up getting along so well with him that he offered me a job when I finished college. When Ed sold the restaurant, he took the job at Westchester Country Club and took me with him.
GK: How long were you at Westchester Country Club?
I worked at Westchester Country Club for five years. My time there was an invaluable learning experience. Chef Ed and the team (Michael Ruggiero, Matthew Roche, Jose Tavarez, Jonathan Moosemiller, Michael Pillarella, and Victor Zarate) were a great crew to work with and to learn from.
When my friend and colleague Michael Ruggiero left, I followed him to The Orienta Beach Club as his sous chef and then stayed there for about four years. I went to a sous chef position at the Field Club of Greenwich in Connecticut, and I enjoyed working there, it was a small but active membership, mainly tennis and racquets focused. Chef Mark LeMoult and the team were a pleasure to work with.
Michael had moved to Louisiana for a season, and when he returned, he took the position at The Tuxedo Club and asked me if I would consider joining him as he needed help with staffing issues and other things. I came on board as the golf clubhouse chef. I worked in that position for about a year and a half, and when Michael was promoted to the Culinary Director position, I became the Executive Chef. Michael left after a year and took the reigns at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, that’s two and a half years ago now!
GK: Tell us about The Tuxedo Club kitchens?
This club is exciting. We have the main production kitchen where we do all of our banquets, weddings, and big member events. The pool kitchen is our quick service casual operation, and the golf kitchen is where we do the majority of our a la carte dinners. The golf kitchen is open six days a week, lunch and dinner, and we do breakfast on the weekends, and it is open from April-November.
One thing that proves to be a challenge here is the location of the kitchens. They are spread around the property. The golf clubhouse is almost a ten-minute drive from the main clubhouse. That makes logistics of moving products and people to where they need to be a bit of a challenge at times. I have a core staff of 9-10, but during the season, my staff goes up to about 30. My banquet/pastry chef Mauro Cantatore is an integral part of what we do.
At the main clubhouse we change the menus each week throughout the entire season. This gives my team a chance to be creative each and every week as we continue to exceed our membership and committee’s demanding expectations.
The menus at the pool and the golf clubhouse, are changed every month and weekly in the main clubhouse. We do keep member favorites like salads and burgers, we have to, and they have high expectations with the quality.
GK: Tell us about your garden?
We started the garden two and a half years ago, and it is producing well. We are expanding this year and adding two more beds at the main clubhouse and also a new herb garden at the golf clubhouse. We are working on getting some beehives installed, but there are bears here and many town regulations with electric fences; bears love honey, and we are trying to figure that out. We are trying to work out how we can put the hives up on the roof of one of the buildings so that way we don’t need an electric fence. Recently we started an indoor hydroponic garden, and this will be utilized to produce herbs, microgreens, and flowers.
We produce our charcuterie, salamis, deli meats, pastrami, and sausages in house. We cure all kinds of things and its always fun. Right now, what I like doing the most is working with the smaller farms in the Hudson Valley. We get cool products weekly, and it’s ever-changing. I have to change the menu often, and I get many product lists from these farms and some of the stuff, I don’t even know what it is!! This is exciting for me as I get to work with new products often. It is fun and a challenge for everyone here.
GK: Tell us about your Shore dinners?
Every Friday, during the summer, we have Shore dinner. The “appetizer” portion of the meal is served buffet style, and we have composed salads, salad bar, raw bar, and action stations. Then entrees are served a la carte followed by a dessert/pastry buffet.
GK: How long is your season here?
We are open almost 11 months out of the year as our members like to come in for lunch or dinner even in the offseason. We close for five weeks in January.
- Pool Kitchen open from May-September
- Golf Kitchen open from April-November
GK: Tell us about the reservoir.
People can boat on Tuxedo lake, but the boats must be electrically powered. We have a boathouse, and many members store their boats here. The lake is stocked with several varieties of trout; we split the costs with the village. A lot of people come here to fish, and the club owns some boats that are available for rent. We have a full-time boat master who is also a fishing captain. He is very knowledgeable and helps people out when they want to go fishing.
GK: You have every type of racquet sports here. Tell us about that?
Yes, it’s a big operation and during the summer and we have solid tennis and racquet sports programs here, and players come to compete from all over the world.
The Golf Clubhouse at The Tuxedo Club, Tuxedo Park, New York, USA
Image courtesy The Tuxedo Club