Imagine a taste that when played in balance with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, work harmoniously to bring the height of flavor and pleasure out of a dish. The fifth element of taste has created a breakthrough for chefs, food manufacturers and health professionals alike: umami. While still a relatively new discovery in the new culinary world, its usage in numerous cuisines, notably through the use of sea vegetables such as sea spaghetti (Himanthalia Elongata) and phytoplankton (Nannochloropsis Gaditana), highlight why umami translates to: “deliciousness”.
Dating back almost 3,000 years in Greece and Rome, what is now known as umami was being utilized in foods with fermented fish sauces. In 1825, French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin presented the word “osmasome” to describe rich, meaty tastes, foreshadowing future science discovery of what triggered the taste. Finally, 20th century Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda determined the source of the taste, by replicating a soup from boiled bamboo, with the commonly known ingredient, seaweed, and dried tuna. By isolating the substance that gave his broth its distinctive flavor, it was discovered that glutamate, one of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins, along with inosinate and guanylate were responsible for the unique flavor(s), and the defined taste of umami was born.
It is often described as a taste that is slightly savory, but not salty. In order to achieve umami, it is crucial to understand the science behind the taste. Umami is defined as the taste of salt combining with glutamate, also known as glutamic acid, an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of proteins, along with inosinate and guanylate, both natural flavor enhancers. Human’s ability to differentiate tastes is a vital skill in our evolution and survival, allowing us to avoid dangerous foods and at the same time obtain essential nutrients for survival. Receptors in taste buds respond specifically to the taste of umami, which signals our bodies that we have consumed protein.
Consuming whole proteins requires the digestive system to burn a lot of energy in order to break them down into amino acids. Amino acids in umami rich foods are in a free state, meaning they are more quickly and easily digested than complete proteins,
due to the disintegration of the amino acid chain. Food rich in the umami taste is the taste of glutamates ready for our body to use to fuel the digestive process.
With the increased popularity of umami in recent decades, global cuisine has worked to achieve umami synergy (when glutamate is combined with inosinate or guanylate), as the taste of umami is sensed far more strongly when the substances are combined, rather than individually. Dishes in glutamate rich vegetables, combined with inosinate, (dishes rich in fish and meat), contribute to what the Japanese refer to as うま味がある, (“to have umami”). The ocean provides two main sources for the taste of umami: seaweed and phytoplankton. Both Sea Spaghetti and Marine Phytoplankton provide a concentrated natural source of glutamic acid to heighten one’s taste of umami. The versatility of the sea vegetables provides chefs and culinary experts the opportunity to explore and create full-flavored dishes.
Sustainably hand harvested off the Galician Coast of Spain, organic Sea Spaghetti represents one of the most versatile products, dried at low temperatures to preserve maximum nutritional benefits. Common in coastal depths and rough waters, the flavor of Sea Spaghetti is similar to that of cuttlefish. As sea vegetables have emerged as a new superfood, Sea Spaghetti proves its benefits, notable in nutrients such as the concentration of fiber and iron, ideal as an addition into a vegan or vegetarian diet, in order to provide plant-based source of nutrients, many times found in larger percentages in animal-based products. Adding into salads, broths, or as an alternative to a traditional pasta provides a versatile, medium intensity ingredient to transform the dish.
Phytoplankton is another example of achieving the taste of umami. A unicellular organism harvested in Northern European by utilizing oceanic currents and isolated water bands free of contaminants and heavy metals, Marine Phytoplankton powder provides innovative chefs a natural product rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, as well as vitamins E and C. In its original powder form, Marine Phytoplankton, also may be used as a natural preservative, adds an intensely fresh, clean oceanic flavor to dishes such diverse dishes as bread, pasta and popcorn, seafood, or paella and many rice dishes.
Once rehydrated with water, Marine Phytoplankton powder transforms into a spice that delivers a new intensity of flavor for marinades, dressings, or dips. Sea vegetables represent one of the world’s greatest renewable and ecological resources for cuisine. Diverse in their usage, Sea Spaghetti and Marine Phytoplankton provide a palatable, nutrient packed
flavor to attain the full umami experience.
Top left: Winners of the Golf Kitchen Golf Cup, Ricardo Trueba Jr, eleven-year-old sensation and his father Ricardo Trueba, with Diana DeLucia. Top right: Winner of the Golf Kitchen Chef Challenge, Jose Carles Fabregas and his wife and partner Magda Toro CPA. Bottom: Golf Kitchen Punta Mita featured guest chefs from some of the most prestigious international golf clubs and resorts and a two-day golf tournament on Punta Mita’s two Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf courses, both ranked among Golf Digest’s “Top 100 World’s Greatest Courses.” Images by Pedro Arias, Ulises L. Guerrero and Favia Cruz Mercado.
PUNTA MITA, MEXICO (May 5, 2019) Golf Kitchen’s Diana DeLucia and Punta Mita developer DINE, collaborated again to host the latest edition of Golf Kitchen Punta Mita April 25th–28th. The four-day special event created a unique experience for golfers and foodies alike. Members and guests were delighted to meet, dine and golf with private golf and country club chefs from the United States, Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico.
“The second edition was a hit from start to finish with a great crowd of locals and visitors creating many memorable moments and flavors on the golf courses and off,” said Carl Emberson, Director of Marketing and Operations at Punta Mita.
Pato Pérsico, Punta Mita’s Beach Clubs’ Executive Chef, welcomed guest and resident chefs from some of the most prestigious golf clubs and resorts in the world who shared their culinary skills at this unique event. They included:
The opening Cuisine of the Americas dinner at the recently relaunched Pacifico Beach Club provided a beautiful setting. Audible sighs marked the moment a brilliant sun slipped slowly into the sea. Off the chart stations presented by chefs Michael Ruggiero, Joseph Klages, Damian Gilchrist and Doug Blair took center stage. Mixologists’ cocktails and live music added to the festivities making for fun and an upbeat eventing.
The following day, Bahia was a resplendent field of play for the first round, a scramble format of a two-day tournament for 38 two–player teams competing for the overall Golf Kitchen Cup. Views of the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay escorted players along the undulating terrain and meandering routing. A luncheon was prepared and served by Tony Villanueva, Ricki Motta, Jose Carles and Yasuo Asai along with Chefs Jorge Gonzalez, Alicia Barajas and their Four Seasons team.
Guests enjoyed one of three sensational melt-in-your-mouth dinners that evening at their choice at one of three Punta Mita beach club restaurants that evening:
The second day of the tournament, a best ball format was contested on Pacifico, a course best known for “The Tail of the Whale”,the world’s only natural ocean island green. Congratulations to the winning team: Ricardo Trueba and son, eleven-year-old sensation Ricardo Trueba Jr.who played off the men’s tees and astounded all. Following the tournament, golf awards were presented and a delicious luncheon at the 18thhole prepared by Michael Ruggiero, Damian Gilchrist, Anthony Giacoponello, Doug Blair and Marcelo Pereyra along with Chefs Jorge Gonzalez, Alicia Barajas and their Four Seasons team was offered.
The closing gala was celebrated at the Kupuri Beach Club, where guests took a culinary tour of the regions and styles of guest chefs Anthony Giacoponello, Tony Villanueva, Yasuo Asai, and Pato Pérsico created an extraordinary 4-course menu. A silent and live auction sponsored by GrandStand Sports raised funds for Peace & Fundacion Punta de Mita.
The wrap-up Sunday brunch of this splendiferous second annual 2019 edition of Golf Kitchen Punta Mita took place at Kupuri Beach Club. Host chef, Pato Pérsico, and guest chefs Lalo Palazuelos Ricki Motta, Gaston Yelicich and Marcelo Pereyra placed the closing exclamation on this remarkable event, a perfect finish to a fantastic weekend in Mexico’s premier luxury resort destination.
An enormous thank you to our sponsors Riviera Nayarit Visitors and Convention Bureau, St Regis Punta Mita Resort, Grey Goose, Tequila Patron and Copa Airlines. Golf Kitchen Punta Mitais now an annual addition to Punta Mita’s offerings.
firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 860-406-1782
Punta Mita Resort
Jorge.Patino@puntamita.com Tel: 52 33-11-33-21-64
Francis Mallmann, image courtesy of The Garzon Club and Restaurant Garzon Public Relations.
The Garzón Club is a genuinely privileged environment with an exclusive range of unparalleled experiences in a beautiful private setting ideal for reflection, learning, inspiration, celebrations, and enjoyment. Many options exist — the opportunity to handcraft your own wine, take advantage of a private cellar to store a part of your collection or bring wine to the elegant dining room to enjoy with your guests. Everything is available to you at the club. Sustainable facilities, breathtaking landscapes, exceptional culinary products, food pairings, and wine tastings.
You can play golf at the Garzón Tajamares: the first International PGA Preferred Golf Course. There are outdoor activities and a Wellness Spa and Lodge. You can enjoy private residences, the beach club, and an active social life. Private events at the winery and other international locations are all a part of the Garzón Club experience.
This is the vision of Alejandro P. Bulgheroni, Global Entrepreneur.
The entrance to the Bodega Garzon. Image courtesy, The Garzon Club.
I recently returned from Uruguay, and I was taken aback by the country. With so much global turmoil it seems this little slice of historical paradise in South America has somehow escaped it all. My hosts at The Garzón Club took me on an nostalgic tour of José Ignacio, a lively fishing village in Punta del Este to experience the arts, dine at the local restaurants, tour the stunning Bodega Garzón, the extra virgin olive oil mill, and the state-of-the-art clubhouse and much more. I definitely was not prepared for where I would find renowned Argentinian Chef and The Garzón Club’s Ambassador, Francis Mallmann. The town of Garzón is a historical, rural village in the province of Maldonado, Uruguay. The population is maybe 100 people, unspoiled, peaceful and the location of Mallmann’s restaurant El Garzón. About a mile to the east is The Garzón Club.
I was enthralled to have 30 minutes to sit down with Francis Mallmann. — Diana DeLucia
GK: Why Garzón and Uruguay?
Uruguay is a significant part of my history, my mother is Uruguayan, and although I wasn’t raised here, I spent a lot of my childhood vacations with her family in Montevideo. In 1978 I started to work in my first restaurant Posada del Mar in José Ignacio, at that time the town had no roads or electricity, and water was delivered via
donkeys, but despite the challenges, we opened the restaurant by the ocean and stayed in operation for over 26 years. In the beginning, the restaurant was not mine, but I eventually took it over and opened a second restaurant in José Ignacio, named Los Negros. In 2000 I had the idea to open a restaurant and hotel in Garzón at the old general store.
Restaurant Garzon. Image courtesy The Garzon Club.
Everyone thought I was crazy because, you know, it was a tiny phantom town, abandoned and quite a drive from José Ignacio and Punta del Este. RegardlessI bought this little corner store in 2003 with my friend who became my business partner. In 2006 I closed my beach restaurants Posada del Mar and Los Negros in José Ignacio and moved indefinitely here. My friend sold his share to Alejandro Bulgheroni, who is my business partner.
We refurbished the building, being careful not to change the heritage. We built the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. I have everything as I like it now. There are five bedrooms, and the kitchen is magnificent. We only cook with fire here, we don’t use propane or electricity in the kitchen, soif you want a cup of tea, you have to start a fire. That is the credo of our cooking here.
GK: Tell us how you came to meet and partner with Alejandro Bulgheroni.
Alejandro Bulgheroni and I came here to this area around the same time; we didn’t know each other at all. He was producing olive oil, and I had opened this little restaurant. Over the years we met a few times. It was a very slow thing. Food and wine are one of the things that we both embraced, so when he built the winery, we started to talk about doing a restaurant there together. It was a very organic relationship that developed over many years. Mr. Bulgheroni is an engineer, and he comes from the oil world, we have such different upbringings, you know. I am more of a bohemian chef, but we merged our ideas andthoughts, very slowly, and I emphasize this because it’s nice, we met many times, talked extensively and then had more lunches and meetings. Eventually, we began to merge, first with the olive oil, and then with the winery.
One of the woodfire ovens at The Bodega Garzon. Image by Diana DeLucia.
GK: Tell us about your wood-fire Domos and Christofle carts.
I have them in four of my restaurants, France, Chile, Mendoza, and at The Garzón Club. It is a beautiful and delicious way of cooking. The use of energy is excellent, with one fire you can do many, many things. At The Garzón Club at the Bodega, which is about a mile away, we have what
I like to call the restaurant of fires. The cooking style at The Garzón Club is quite elegant as opposedto here at El Garzón where the cooking is more brutal, rustic and unstyled.
At The Garzón Club, we have the most incredible equipment. We have the entire collection of Christofle carts, and we use them to present roast meat, cheese, ice cream, desserts, and Armagnac. There is such a beauty to those dining rooms. A member could be sitting in the living area reading a book with his wife and children, and then suddenly we show up with these five Christofle carts and they can eat right from that, or they can have a very formal lunch or dinner upstairs, whatever pleases them.
GK: You have a lot of guest chef visits, what can they expect?
When we bring in a guest chef; we support themwith a concierge, provide them with everything they need so they can experience cooking here successfully. I am very proud of the combination of incredible equipment, elegant buildings, and striking views.
GK: How do you observe the difference between cooking in a restaurant and cooking in private golf or country clubs?
Working in a club of members, [pauses] the beauty is everything about it. The food and wine is half of it, and the service is the other. I make a definite boundary between the two because cooking to me is a craft, but the service is an art, they are two different worlds.
The beauty of the art of service in a private club where you have the resources as we do at The Garzón Club, you can do the most incredible silent things for your guests. That’s the most significant ingredient in a member club; the silent ingredients. Respecting intimacy is very important, you have this incredible possibility to deliver
food and service then step back and let the members lead. You don’t need to have the arrogance to explain every dish. They already know aboutthe culture of food and arts, if they ask that’s fine, but after that leave them alone with a silence that they will never forget. Maybe it sounds weird, but the message should be wrapped in a beautiful mystery. The privacy and the silence should be so delicately executed that they want to know more, but they can never know more as it is unexplainable in words, that’s the way to touch a members heart, he will go back home and say, “What an incredible day I had but I can’t explainit. “If I were working in the private club world, that would be my aim.
GK: Tell our private golf and country club chefs what they could expect with a collaboration at The Garzón Club.
We have the most beautiful tools, fire in every way — domo, plancha, grill, and ashes. The beauty of collaboration is they can think about what they want to do with these tools. I want them to come here with a dream, and then we can help them with our knowledge of fire and how they can achieve creating their recipes using new techniques with our fires. With the assistance of Executive Chef Ricki Motta, we would station some chefs in the kitchen, some in the fires kitchen and some outside using the special tools and grills we have out on the terrace. There would be lots of planning, and we would offer them a concierge list of products and ingredients so they can start thinking about what they can use and then we can work with them on how to create their recipes using new techniques with our fires. Diversity is the most beautiful thing, we all come from all corners of the world with different training, if we come together with our diverse mix of cultures in collaboration, this could produce incredible results.
GK: It means a lot to me as the founder of Golf Kitchen, to watch the chefs continue to have opportunities to collaborate and advance the knowledge and talent in the Private Club Industry. Many thanks and we look forward to working with you in the future. ~ Diana DeLucia
The award-winning, Mark Finlay designed, 33,000 square-feet clubhouse, which overlooks the 1st and 18th fairways.
ANNOUNCEMENT - April 15th 2019, Avon, CT: The second annual Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards will be held at GlenArbor Golf Club, Bedford, New York on August 19th, 2019.
Michael Ruggiero, Executive Chef, GlenArbor Golf Club along with Chefs from some of the most prestigious Private Golf and Country Clubs in the USA and abroad will cook up an elite, fine dining feast paired with exceptional wines selected by GlenArbor's esteemed Wine and Beverage Director Fernando Silva for the members and guests of this invitation-only event.
"We are honored to partner with GlenArbor Golf Club for this important yearly event in the industry. Illuminating the culinary talent has been my vision for Golf Kitchen since its conception and alongside GlenArbor I envision the awards will continue to develop well into the future,” said Diana DeLucia.
"We are honored to host the “Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards” that recognize executives at the forefront of providing the highest caliber experience for members and guests. The creativity, attitude, and thinking of club chefs has significantly progressed in the last decade, and we are encouraged at the direction the industry is moving. Diana and Golf Kitchen are at the forefront of this movement, and I applaud the notion that many public and private facilities are finally getting recognized as having some of the best minds and leaders in the culinary industry. It's not often that one team within a club can influence so many human emotions in a single seating.. sight, smell, touch, and taste.. what a gift.." remarked Morgan Gregory, President, GlenArbor Golf Club.
Stay tuned to learn about our culinary team lineup and award recipients in the coming months.
About GlenArbor Golf Club
Providing a collegial combination of golf, fine dining, and camaraderie, the GlenArbor Golf Club was founded in 2001. The Club is located on 200 acres of land in northern Westchester County, on grounds that were originally developed in 1917 as the White Estate – one of the largest, historic estates in Westchester. GlenArbor’s master plan preserved the property’s historic roots as benefitting its heritage. The award-winning, Mark Finlay designed, 33,000 square-feet clubhouse that overlooks the first and eighteenth fairways, and offers stunning views of the course and the surrounding landscape. Formal and informal dining options are available along with a number of private dining and meetings rooms in which to host intimate and larger member events.
To learn more about GlenArbor’s rich history and culture, and why it is the leader in the metropolitan area for membership satisfaction, please visit the Club’s website: http://www.glenarborclub.com/History-Culture.aspx
Gary Player was carefully selected to design and transform the land while preserving its native beauty into a world-class golf course, proudly calling it “his masterpiece.” The Par 72 course measures 6,981 yards and hosts under 10,000 rounds annually. The 9-hole short game facility also designed by Player is part of the Club’s renowned teaching program. The State-of-the-Art Teaching Center is open year-round and operated by passionate teaching professionals that truly customize the experience for the membership. GlenArbor hosts the Gary Player Invitational yearly in October.
The Club is dedicated to conservation and recognized for its leadership in bluebird research and its farm garden initiatives. The dining experience is further enhanced by produce from GlenArbor’s organic gardens.
The Club is open from the middle of March until Christmas Eve. The indoor Teaching Center remains open for lessons throughout the winter. During the season, the Club is open six days a week (closed Tuesdays for golf outings). Lunch and dinner are served six days a week.
About Golf Kitchen
The Golf Kitchen concept was initially born at a meeting at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton in 2010. With some solid ideas, Diana DeLucia, created her first book and proof of concept titled Golf Club World, Behind the Gates which published in 2013. The recipes and culinary stories proved to be very popular and thus the Golf Kitchen book concept was realized. DeLucia traveled the USA and the world to uncover some of the finest Private Golf and Country Club and Resort teams. The first Golf Kitchen book was launched at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York and hosted by Executive Chef Rhy Waddington and a star-studded line up of Private Golf and Country Club Chefs from the USA and abroad cooking a food and wine tasting menu for the members and guests that will always be a night to remember. A similar event quickly followed at Cassique at Kiawah Island Club, South Carolina which was hosted by Executive Chef Doug Blair and once again included a collaboration of an elite group of chefs from Private Golf and Country Clubs from the USA and abroad. It was at Cassique that the magazine concept was born, and Golf Kitchen Magazine is now in its second year.
Golf Kitchen Punta Mita, a four-day golf and culinary extravaganza followed and was hosted in Punta Mita, Mexico - which boasts both Four Seasons and St. Regis resorts on the property and two renowned Jack Nicklaus Signature-designed golf courses, Pacifico and Bahia – on April of 2018 and 2019 with the help and support of Punta Mita, featured Golf Kitchen chefs and private golf and country clubs, friends of Golf Kitchen chefs and restaurants and residents and guests.
The Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards launched its inaugural event at Edgewood Country Club in New Jersey on October 4th, 2018 and now has a new home at the prestigious GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford, New York USA.
The second book in the Golf Kitchen series is titled Golf Kitchen Americas and will launch in the fall of 2019. For more information about Golf Kitchen Americas, please contact the author, Diana DeLucia.
For Sponsorship opportunities:
Cell: 860 406 1782
Cell: 860 406 1782
President, GlenArbor Golf Club
Recipe by Adam Beattie, Food and Beverage Director at Mayacama Golf Club, Sonoma County, California, USA.
Image by Diana DeLucia.
Pour all ingredients into a double rocks glass and stir with a bar spoon.
Garnish with the blood orange wheel.
The 18th fairway and the Mayacama Clubhouse. Image courtesy Mayacama Golf Club.
Recipe by Michael Ruggiero, Executive Chef at GlenArbor Golf Club, Bedford, New York, USA. Image by Diana DeLucia.
Cherry Ganache Filling
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a paddle.
Add the wet ingredients and blend well.
Cherry Ganache Filling
Melt the chocolate, heavy cream and sugar in a double boiler.
Liaison the egg yolks and vanilla extract with the melted chocolate mixture.
Allow the mixture to sit at room temp until it cools to a piping consistency.
Pipe the ganache filling into the dark truffle shells.
Coat with the chocolate batter and drop into a preheated 325°F fryer for 2 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Penfolds Grandfather, Rare Tawny, 20 years, Barossa, Australia.
Let’s pair the truffles with a Deep Tawny; its distinctive yellow-green edge is characteristic of extended wood maturation. Intense raisin fruits, fruitcake, licorice, roasted walnuts all integrated seamlessly with a freshness contradicting age.
Classical Penfolds fruitcake, licorice and vanillin oak flavors with a sweet full and round mid-palate, and a finish that persists on and on. A balancing act for your decadent chocolate finish!
Wine Director and Sommerlier
GlenArbor Golf Club
The GlenArbor Clubhouse. Image courtesy of GlenArbor.
Matthew O'Connor, Executive Chef at Bonnie Briar Country Club, Larchmont, New York, USA.
Image left by Diana DeLucia, Image right courtesy Matthew O'Connor.
In 2015, I was very fortunate to travel to Morocco with a group of general managers, golf professionals, and journalists. It was on this journey that I met Kevin Burke, then General Manager of Bonnie Briar Country Club. I struck up a conversation with Kevin several times regarding the culinary side of golf. Kevin spoke very highly of his chef and his culinary team. Fast forward to 2018, and here I am working with that very same unsung Executive Chef. Although Kevin has moved on, the current General Manager Joe Napolitano is equally appreciative of Matt and the culinary team. — Diana Delucia
GK: Where did you grow up Matt?
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. My dad Ed O’Connor, who loved to be out on the water, had a commercial crabbing and fishing license. It wasn’t his source of income; he just had a passion for it. From the age of three, I was on the boat with him every weekend, catching crabs, fishing for striped bass and things like that. Looking back that’s probably where my interest in food began. Every Saturday we would come home, and steam bushels of crabs and the family would come over, my grandmother would make potato salad, and dad would cook on the grill. I never realized how amazing that was until I left for school.
I went to a vocational high school called The Western School of Technology in Environmental Science, and at that time I thought I was going to be a paramedic because they had a health science program. The first half of my freshman year I had to take several different subjects the school offered. I did health science, and I did culinary classes and electronics; after that, I had to pick the field I wanted to focus on.
I wasn’t great at health science or electronics due to my math and science grades, so I wound up in culinary. After two weeks, I was like, I love this. My teacher was great. He pushed me into ACF (American Culinary Federation) competitions when I was in high school. I was competing against college kids! I got a job at a local restaurant part-time, it was horrible, but I worked really hard and then later that year the owner Pat Patterson decided to sell it. He said, ”I see a lot of promise in you, would you be interested in getting a job next door?” I immediately took the opportunity. It was a Baltimore Sun three-star French restaurant named Tersiguels in Ellicott City, Maryland. It was a family run farm-to-table restaurant. They were doing seven-course tasting menus, which was not mainstream at that time. The son Michel was the chef, his father Fernand was the maitre’d, and his mother Odette was the ex-chef, but she still came in and made all the dessert! She used to work out of the very illegal kitchen in the basement. She would kick my ass all afternoon making desserts and yelling at me in French; I picked up a lot of things from that experience. I learned the love for ingredients, and in the summer, they’d come in with bushels of tomatoes, beets, and goat cheese and things like that. It was interesting to me to see the process of where ingredients came from. I think it molded who I am today. I still keep in touch with him to this day, they’ve been open for over 25 years and have survived several recent floods. I worked there until I turned 18 and began studying at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, New York. I graduated when I turned 21.
GK: Where did you do your externship?
I did my externship at the Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore because I couldn’t afford to go abroad or to the French laundry and stuff like that. The hotel was a five-star, five-diamond, and Conde Nast Traveler rated. I spent most of my externship in the restaurant, and it was a great learning experience. Matthew Laurence was the executive chef. When I graduated from the CIA I went back to Harbor Court as the morning sous chef, and then I became the evening sous chef. Matthew Laurence, the executive chef, left to open his own business in Rochester. It was a catering business, and he asked me to come work for him. I was very interested as I knew I would get to see what it’s like to open up a new restaurant and business. He had grand plans! The space was 24,000 square feet, and it had a huge banquet hall with a historic house attached that he could live in. The house had room for a restaurant, but it never really materialized.
GK: What did you do next?
I moved back to Maryland, and I got the banquet chef position at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington DC, which was a fantastic experience, and at 23 I had a staff of almost 50. Although I had been cooking since I was 14, I found the Willard to be seriously hardcore training. We did $13 million a year just in the banquet department and $24 million in overall food and beverage sales. It was 24/7. I cooked for George Bush twice. There was always a dignitary or someone’s private chef in the kitchen, and you never knew if there was a Prince of wherever in town. The Secret Service were always in the kitchen. It was a fantastic experience, but it was very taxing, and it took a toll on me after a while. It did teach me a lot about mass production and banquets and how to do things very well for a lot of people, it had to be perfect.
After the Willard I did some corporate catering for Legg Mason in their corporate office in Baltimore, and after that I moved back to Rochester, New York and worked at several places while awaiting the opening of Matthew Laurence’s location, sadly after three months I was to be told it was not going to get off the ground. It was a tough time as we had a baby on the way. I was fortunate to get a position at the Marriott in Rochester and then I ended up overseeing 17 properties for EJ Delmonte Hotels in Western New York. That was a really cool position as I got to travel a bit.
GK: When did you gain an interest in country clubs?
I was always interested in country clubs. I had a friend, Max Knoepfel, who worked at Westchester Country Club for two years. He told me that I needed to come to see Westchester. He was formerly the chef at Belle Haven Country Club in Virginia, and my best friend Don Fisch was the executive sous chef. I went to Westchester and did a few events with them, and Max told me, “Call David Myers the headhunter, he’s really hooked up with the country clubs. Maybe there might be a vacancy somewhere.” As it turned out Rockland Country Club in Tappan, NY had a job for the executive chef position, I took it, and they doubled my pay!
That was a stepping stone, and I stayed there for two years, it was great. After Rockland Country Club I went to Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, NY for a short time, but it wasn’t a good fit for me, and we mutually parted ways, and that’s when I got in touch with Kevin Burke, the general manager at Bonnie Briar Country Club.
GK: How did you meet Kevin Burke?
I was getting desperate because I had parted ways with Old Oaks two weeks before Christmas and was a young father to my son John who was just eight months old. I was interviewing at Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Connecticut, and one of my meat purveyors told me that I should call Kevin Burke at Bonnie Briar Country Club. I called Kevin, and he said, “Yeah, you need to come in for an interview, and you should come in tomorrow.” It was interesting because the first person I met introduced himself to me as the executive chef and I was like, okay, they have an interim chef here. They had been through several chefs in four years, so they had this gentleman who actually came out of retirement to oversee the place. He told me that he was only going to stay for another year and that if I take the sous chef position, it will likely turn into the executive chef position. In my head, I had no interest.
After the interview, Kevin cornered me and said, “I just want to tell you that you really aced this interview. I’m going to call you back.” I thanked him and told him that I appreciated the feedback. I told Kevin, “I’m really not interested in being a sous chef. I’ve been an executive chef for a long time, and I’m interviewing at the Harbor Yacht Club, and I only have the cooking test to go, and I am very confident I will get the position.” Kevin said, “Just hang tight.” I went home, and he called me the next day. He asked me to come in on Monday which was two or three days away. “I want you to meet with someone from the board,” Kevin said. I said, “I’m doing my cooking test at Indian Harbor tomorrow.” Kevin asked me to send me the pictures from the test, and I did.
Indian Harbor Yacht Club needed to wait for their board meeting to make a decision. This gave me some time to meet with Bonnie Briar on Monday. I interviewed with a board member Doug Jung and on my way home he called me and offered me a job, I said, “I don’t want a sous chef job.” He said, “No, the executive chef position!” I was surprised. They had paid their interim chef in advance and gave me 24 hours. I called the yacht club and told them I had a job offer, and I’m in no position to turn anything down at this point. They needed to wait for their board meeting, and I said, “I don’t have that much time to risk.” I accepted the position at Bonnie Briar, and it is the best decision I have ever made. Kevin was a very supportive general manager. They wanted to change the food and beverage here immediately. This was an excellent situation for me! We had a very supportive president, and we achieved a lot in a year.
GK: What are your plans for Bonnie Briar moving forward?
We were talking about doing our own bacon, which I know would be really cool. We will make our own sausages, and salami and maybe we will start to do our own dry aging meats. Things like that will immediately improve our product and also lower our costs. The members see that as a win-win situation.
GK: Tell us about your staff?
I love my staff, and my sous chef junior is one of the kindest and hardest working people I have ever come in contact with. I have people here that I can see growing to become chefs in their own right. I want to spend more time with them and get the club involved to offer them some continued education so they can see more outside of these walls. I have a gentleman who started here as a food runner, but I could always see how interested he was as we grew. He was always asking me, “How did you do that? That’s really neat. When will you let me taste things?” Now he’s working here full-time, and he’s moved up. He’s my grill cook at night, but I’d love to find him a path to go to school. I think he needs that to grow.
I want to focus a little bit more of my time into helping with their education if I can. I’ve looked into the ACF, they have an apprenticeship program, but to be approved for that apprenticeship program they need the paperwork. I only have so many resources here, and I don’t have a college campus that I’m affiliated with. I sit on the board for the Westchester Community College culinary program, but it’s not what is needed for ACF. I’m trying to get the membership more involved with that to understand that they have a real opportunity to improve someone’s life and also make them very loyal to this club. That’s one of the things that our new General Manager Joe Napolitano who has a culinary background can assist me in achieving.
GK: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years? I hope I’m still here doing improvements, more renovations, and a new kitchen if they will give me the blessing for that. Long term I would like to train to be a general manager.
The Bonnie Briar Clubhouse. Image courtesy Bonnie Briar Country Club.
Recipe by Rick Dees, Entertainer, Producer and Owner of Rick.com and Sweetbriar Farm, Danville, Kentucky, USA.
Image by Diana DeLucia.
Yield: 12-15 slices
Preheat oven to 325 °F, butter and line an 8-8-inch or 9-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Combine vanilla, oil, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients, and fold in the prunes and nuts.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the center springs back when touched lightly in the center. Remove from the oven and let cake cool for 10 minutes.
Chef Note: While the cake is baking, prepare the Bourbon Sauce.
Mix together sugar, salt, buttermilk mixture, corn syrup, bourbon, butter and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for one minutes. Set aside.
Invert still-warm cake onto a serving platter.
Spoon all of the bourbon sauce over the cake and let it soak in.
Dust with the powdered sugar.
Serve warm. Cut into 12-15 slices... and get outta the way!!!
Sweetbriar Farm, Danville, Kentucky, USA. Image by Diana DeLucia.