Callie Meyer, Executive Pastry Chef at Wycliffe Golf and Country Club, Wellington, Florida, USA
Image left: Callie Meyer | Image right: Key Lime Panna Cotta
In January of 2020, I had the honor of visiting Wycliffe Golf & Country Club to produce a magazine story and a book chapter. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of talent and excellence with all operations of the Club. Callie is no exception; her talent as an artist and communicator, paired with her love of the discipline of distance running, is a true testament to her character. ~Diana DeLucia
GK: Tell us about your early experiences with baking.
CM: I was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is about 70 miles west of Philadelphia. I lived in Pennsylvania until I was eighteen. It is a great farming community, and it was great having fresh produce available while growing up. The farmer’s market was right up the road, and we would frequent it nearly every Saturday in season. We also would visit Lancaster’s Central Market. All the local farmers and local bakers were there with produce and baked goods. Walking through the market, I fondly remember the smell of fresh-baked pastries and Danishes. Experiencing that at a young age inspired me to explore the culinary arts when I got older. I have had a love for baking since I was five years old, and it is something that I have always treasured. I remember making Christmas cookies with my dad, who taught me much about the basics of baking.
After high school, I enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont. From there, I had two externships: one at Hotel Hershey and the other at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Both externships were unforgettable experiences. Although the kitchen at the Greenbrier is enormous and intimidating, it served as a building block for my future. As a young chef, I was in awe of Executive Chef Peter Timmins. His apprenticeship program was one of the best. Sadly, Chef Timmons passed away in2014, but I will always remember everything he taught me.
GK: Did you study pastry initially?
CM: When I was doing my externships, I did a little bit of both. The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) wanted every chef to be well-rounded. They insisted we move around with our externships to learn as much as possible to prepare us for our future careers. When I moved to Florida in 2003, I worked as a sous chef at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach. I learned a lot under the chefs there, plus it was my first taste of the private club business.
I stayed there for almost eight years, and then I came here to Wycliffe Golf & Country Club in 2011.
GK: What was your first role at Wycliffe?
CM: When I began at Wycliffe, I was in banquets for a while. I was helping the Pastry Chef when he needed it, and when he left the Club, they put me in the position temporarily while searching for someone more permanently.
However, my “temporary” work with pastries changed their mind. In 2013, I was officially offered the position of Pastry Chef.
GK: I notice you are very popular with the membership. How did you win them over?
CM: First, I started talking to the members. I wanted to find out what they wanted in pastries and desserts. When visiting the ladies’ card room, I would bring them samples, offering them something new each time. I continued to
do that, and over time, I was able to incorporate their feedback into new recipes – this really made the difference. After all, it’s about pleasing the members, and who better to ask what they prefer than them.
GK: It sounds like Wycliffe always is a big pastry/dessert club?
CM: They do appreciate fine pastries and desserts. I love it when we have creative events that have a fun theme. Everyone can get involved.
GK: Tell us about some of those themes.
CM: We had a British theme, which was “jolly good” fun. We made a four-layer “Beatles/60’s British Invasion” themed cake. We supported the bottom with Styrofoam and actually spun it on a record player to a Beatles tune. Needless to say, it was a “hard day’s night” but we got it done!
Halloween is also always fun, and happens to be my favorite! Our members look forward to seeing all the spooky creations we come up with. We have many special events per season, and we try to exceed the member’s expectations every time.
GK: How do you and Executive Chef Christopher Park work together?
CM: Honestly, Chef Park is unlike any other Chef I have ever worked for or with – and I mean that in the best way possible! He is a true leader who encourages us every day. Chef is huge on inclusivity. While there may be times that he writes the main portion of the menu, more than anything, he looks to us for inspiration and creativity, especially when it comes to special events. Chef is a staunch supporter of the local farmer’s markets, and he always tries to use local produce wherever possible. Depending on availability, and because we are in Florida, most fruit and produce is available year-round. I’ll create a dessert surrounding the specific ingredient chef has in mind. Usually, this profile will reflect on what he has presented in the menu for the event.
GK: As a pastry chef, how do you source your product because you’re not necessarily married to the ingredients solely from the farms?
CM: I usually choose ingredients that are available from our sources that we know and trust to deliver quality ingredients on time and on budget.
GK: Do you dabble in molecular and scientific techniques?
CM: Our members prefer classic desserts. If I am experimenting with a molecular recipe, it’s a hit or miss. My style is elegant, straightforward and clean, versus the scientific approach of molecular creations.
GK: What is the process when you are designing your creations?
CM: Let’s use the Key Lime Pie recipe we have published in this magazine as an example. How can I change the standard key lime pie into a more elegant dessert? I imagined adding a nice reflective glaze. Then I start thinking about what goes well with key lime. Maybe it’s cream or raspberries? Then I break it down even further. The components need to work well with a graham cracker base. Finally, I like to consider the tiny side elements, balancing the key lime’s creaminess and tartness. Once I have considered all these factors and the type and shape
of the plate or vessel, I finalize the recipe and start creating.
GK: You create like an artist. That must come from somewhere.
CM: My entire family consists of artists. My dad is a creative director in advertising. My mom is a music, art and dance teacher, and my sister is a writer for Disney children’s television. We all have an artistic flair.
GK: What programs did you put in place during the pandemic and what will you retain from that period?
CM: The pandemic created challenges for everyone, maybe even more so for food service. During the early lockdowns, members were not coming in to dine. Take out was available, but we wanted to do more. Our members, who are usually very social, suddenly, like everyone else, had a lot of free time in their homes. Our pastry team came up with a creative way to fill some of that time with what we called “Take & Bake” program. We selected recipes that members could successfully bake at home, gathered all the ingredients into kits and made them available for pick up. Then, I posted a video on Wycliffe’s You Tube channel with detailed instructions on preparation and bake times. The members loved it – they would even send us photos that we’d include in our weekly publication. However, since our members are now back to enjoying being active and social, we have discontinued Take & Bake. It could be something fun to revisit on a special occasion.
Wycliffe Golf and Country Club, Wellington, Florida, USA