Taste of Golf with Victoria "Tory" Eulenfield, National director of member services and programs at the NGCRA
The Taste of Golf 2023 team celebrate. Image by Zach Thomas
GK: How did you get involved with the First Tee’s Taste of Golf Event?
VE: I started with the NGCRA (National Golf Course Restaurant Association) in February 2010. Coincidentally, I had attended the first event at Epping Forrest Yacht Club in 2009 as my mom helped start the First Tee during her time at the PGA Tour. When I was approached in 2012 by the First Tee Board Members to help with the Chef portion of the Taste of Golf, I had already developed a great relationship with the Club chef community and was eager to take this on.
The future of golf is essential to the NGCRA and golf clubs—we need golfers to keep our industry alive. The First Tee is dedicated to keeping golf accessible to children. As chef liaison, a task I undertook starting in 2011, I am responsible for finding product donations, the menu, biographies, and headshots.
The Taste of Golf held its inaugural chef competition in 2012 with the theme “Street Food Around the World.” Chefs randomly drew the country they would represent and the protein they would prepare. Pastry Chef Nils Rowland of Ponte Vedra Inn & Club won with his single chocolate Banana Curry Truffle. Out of all the fantastic street food-themed dishes, this little chocolate nugget beat out some crazy, unique dishes.
GK: How did the event come to be at TPC Sawgrass?
VE: A larger venue was needed for the event to expand. Since TPC Sawgrass was already involved with the First Tee, it was a natural fit. Additionally, we were able to offer stay and play packages at the Marriott Sawgrass and the Stadium Course. The First Tee and raising money for children are essential to this mission, and we continued to grow the event in the ensuing years. When the Pandemic hit, we all wanted to keep it going so we tapped into a creative idea to accomplish our goals during lockdown while keeping chefs and guest safe: the mystery basket.
I developed a mystery basket of ingredients (Smithfield Pork Tenderloin, black garlic, peaches, a vanilla bean, black sesame seeds, fenugreek, mustard seed, orange powder, and Aleppo pepper) and delivered to each participating chef. Each had ten minutes to unpack ingredients and devise a plan to seven of the nine ingredients, with bonus points for using more. Chefs were given an hour to cook and record their cooking process. At the end of the allotted time, each chef was required to text a photo of the completed dish and then, upload a video of their preparation process.
While it may not have been a perfect process, we had a lot of laughs and fun. Four outstanding chefs were selected based on the video submissions. Despite the lockdown, everyone was excited by this opportunity and the First Tee Facebook Live announcement was well received. Chef Erik Osol of the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club came in 1st place, and Chef Lewis Walker from Timuquana Country Club came in 2nd. The judges were Chef Jason Hall, CMC, Chef Jason Valerio, Chef Sam Brod, and Chef Gerald Ford, CMC.
In 2021, since we were not entirely out of lockdown, we held a culinary contest to complement the golf tournament, tapping into a totally Southern concept, Pimento Cheese. There were very few criteria, only that Pimento Cheese had to be an ingredient in the recipe. The results and creativity were out of this world from a simple Pimento Cheese Spread with housemade kimchi and focaccia toasts to Lobster Ravioli!
GK: Tell us about this year’s event.
VE: The 2023 theme was The Greatest Showman/ Upscale Circus. We had been through so many restrictions, that we were craving a festive, carnival atmosphere. Each dish had to be a few bites in a disposable dish that didn’t require more than a fork or a spoon to eat while standing. The clubs embraced this criteria and it resulted in another spectacular evening!
This year there were three award categories: Chefs’ Choice (all competing chefs voted on dishes created by their peers, Judges’ Choice (a blind tasting of all the dishes) and Best Decorated Table. Michael Meuse of Sawgrass Country Club won both food awards, while Executive Chef Joe Gianzero of Jacksonville Golf and Country Club impressed with his themed table decor.
GK: Tell us your plans for the Taste of Golf in the next few years.
VE: I would love to hold more of these tasting events. While planning and running a special event of this magnitude is not an easy task, hearing the buzz from the attendees and their excitement over the excellent food quality makes it all worthwhile, as does of course, supporting such a worthy cause. And, seeing the anticipation surrounding the trophy ceremony really provides a great forum to the chefs to be judged by the attendees and their fellow culinarians.
Executive Chef Matt Voskuil, Nineteen at TPC Sawgrass, Foie Gras Mousse with Strawberry, Brioche, Almond.
Executive Chef Lance Cook, Hammock Dunes Club, Cheese Ale Soup, Carnival Pretzel Croutons, Club Made Worcestershire Powder Mexican Street Corn Blend with Chipotle Agave Pork Belly, Cilantro Creme and Lime Juice Pipette.
Executive Chef Michael Meuse, Sawgrass Country Club, Thai Cashew and Sriracha Donut with Poke Tuna Crunch with Masago, Radish Sprouts, Cucumber and Scallions.
Executive Chef Joe Gianzero, Jacksonville Golf & Country Club, Walking Taco with Braised Short Rib Cotija Cheese,
and pickled onion.
Executive Chef Alexander Sapp, St. Johns Golf & Country Club, Roasted Chicken Leg & Duck Confit with Funnel Cake Bread Pudding, Kettle Corn Lace Cookies and Cotton Candy Cake Truffles.
Chef Director Eric Butcher, PGA Tour, Global Home, Lamb Shawarma with Fresh Pita, Tabboulleh, Labneh, Pickled
Vegetables Sesame and Aleppo Caramel Corn.
Executive Chef Darek Stennes, The River Club and Executive Chef Tim Turner, Epping Forest Yacht & Country Club, Cheerwine Char Sui Pork Bao Buns with Kimchi Popcorn.
Executive Chef Tiago Joaquim, World Golf Village, Porcini Dusted Shrimp Arepas with Truffle Aioli, Mayport Shrimp, Handmade Corn Flour Arepas, Mushroom and Asparagus Duxelle and Charred Corn.
Executive Chef Cameron Walton, The Lodge & Club & Executive Sous Chef Xavier Santiago, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Gaucho Style Wagyu Short Ribs with Feijoada, Roasted Garlic Rice and Pickled Onion Herb Sauce.
More than Golf, First tee saves lives
The Taste of Golf serves as a major fundraiser for the North Florida chapter of First Tee, a youth development organization that enables kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, active learning experiences are created that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do.
For the past 18 years, the National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA) and this chapter of First Tee, which serves seven counties in Northern Florida, have worked side-by-side to produce The Taste of Golf, from which 100% of the proceeds benefits the charity. Since inception, the event has raised over $1 million for First Tee.
According to First Tee Executive Director Jeff Willoughby, his team manages all aspects of the event, extending invitations to clubs, their general managers, and chefs, as well as selling sponsorships. Computacenter & Cisco Systems are the title sponsor. The NGCRA manages the culinary details of the evening, from setting menus, interfacing with the chefs, and coordinating the judging. Months of preparation and countless hours of hard work happen behind the scenes to make this event incredible.
Held in the beautiful TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse, the second floor is transformed into a roaming feast, as guests move from room to room, visiting chef’s stations, sampling small bites, and mingling with friends.
A friendly competition among guests selects the Taste of Golf winner, whose club receives and holds the perpetual trophy for a year. The Chefs’ Choice Award is voted on by the chefs.
First Tee program participants act as greeters and take in all the action and excitement. According to Willoughby, while golf is integral to the First Tee program, the number one goal is for participants to graduate from their respective high schools and to learn the importance of giving back to their local communities.
“Our kids and teens are facing challenges unseen by previous generations,” Willoughby explained. “Many lack access to safe opportunities that foster a culture of acceptance and provide mentorship. They live in a world where social pressures are always on, calm and confidence are hard to access,With its programming and partner facilities, First Tee provides a place for kids to gather and learn. A recent capital campaign raised funds for the Jacksonville Beach First Tee Learning Center, a new indoor facility at Jacksonville Beach Golf Club.
The programs offered by First Tee enable kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with life skills curriculum, learning experiences are created that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids carry to everything they do.
With the belief that all kids deserve the chance to grow in a supportive environment with mentors guiding them, First Tee is dedicated to building programs that are accessible, welcoming, and as impactful as they are fun. to influence the lives of youth in North Florida.
The passion and care of people like those who supported and attended The Taste of Golf are instrumental in allowing First Tee to continue to IMPACT, INFLUENCE and INSPIRE the youth in North Florida.
~by Karen Moraghan
Jeff Willoughby | Executive Director
First Tee - North Florida
101 E Town Pl, Suite 100, St. Augustine, FL 32092
Office: 904-810-2231 |
email@example.com | www.firstteenorthflorida.org
National Director of Member Services and Programs