VICTORIA“TORY” EULENFELD, National Director of Membership and Programs at the National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA)
Victoria "Tory" Eulenfeld, National Director of Membership and Programs at the National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA)
The National Golf Course Restaurant Association (NGCRA) is a support system for the Golf and Country Club Industry with a focus on helping food and beverage departments network, increase volume and reduce spending without sacrificing quality. We are the first and only association strictly dedicated to the Chefs in this industry where most focus is placed on golf!
GK: What influenced your decision to pursue a career in food?
I was raised by two foodies who didn’t believe in babysitting, so they took me to all the fine dining establishments. I was introduced to escargot, fettuccini, cheesecake, and more as a toddler. In second grade, I struggled with math, and one Saturday, my tutor pulled out a menu and taught me addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by taking orders off a menu.
My mom loves to say there were so many signs that I would end up in the food industry. When I was 16, my dad’s girlfriend (now my Bonus Mom) gave me a copy of Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and it opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know for women.
I tried my damnedest to attend culinary school right out of college, but I was “encouraged” to get my four-year degree first. While at Appalachian State University, I cooked often and had a great support system of women in my sorority- after a year and a half of hearing, “you should be a chef!” I finally got the courage to transfer to Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. I was one of three girls in my class rotations. I loved being an anomaly in a male-driven world and knew this was my destiny!
The first day of Culinary School was the first day of my American Regional Rotation. The Chef had said to the whole class, “Miss Lemming will not be in your graduating class,” after I had just “boiled” beef instead of searing, and I thought long and hard over this comment and decided I would not only prove him wrong, but I will be in the top of my class… A year later, I’m in French Classical (still one of the three girls in my rotation), and we all get our recipes for our final- Chef gives me Duck a l’Orange, and the girl next to me a recipe for French Onion Soup. What?? For a good 24 hours, from the time Onion Soup. What?? For a good 24 hours, from the time I received the recipe to the moment I presented it to the Chef, I thought he gave the other girl the slam dunk, and I was given the most challenging recipe because no one was going to pass with a perfect classical French dish. After receiving a pat on the back and a “rumored” first A+ ever given to a student, I asked why I got the hardest dish, and the other gal got the easiest, and I will NEVER forget this moment- Chef Nogel says to me “I only give people what they can handle,” and that changed my whole world- getting given the most demanding tasks was the best thing you could ask for and never doubt my worth again.
GK: How did you land at the NGCRA?
At a casual dinner, I met Anders and Stewart Forsbrand. I met this fantastic couple through my mom and Bonus Dad when I first moved to Ponte Vedra after a tiresome gig cooking and managing a golf club in South Carolina. Instantly I loved them and kept in touch over the years- Anders was on the European Golf tour but lived in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Years later, I married, had a baby, divorced, and became a single mom. I worked for a well-known Jacksonville-based chef, and I was getting burnt out juggling a single-parent life, kitchen life, and raising a 17-month-old. I ran into the Forsbrands again, and it changed me forever – Anders had just invested in one of his friend’s new companies in Sweden and thought I would be a good fit for this new, unique adventure in the world of food at golf courses, the NGCRA.
A couple of years ago, before this night, our founder and president, Patrik Waxin, and one of his best friends owned a restaurant at a golf course in Sweden. Because of the extreme seasons in Sweden, they were losing quite a bit of Money on inventory.
Fun fact in Sweden golf courses in golf course restaurants are separately owned and operated, Over the next couple of years they were able to get Groups of golf course restaurant owners to start buying together to save Money and it filled such a unique space if it came pretty popular and that’s how the international food association (IFA) was born.
Fast forward, the IFA was coming to into the United States, and I was getting introduced at the inception of the National Golf Course Restaurant Association.
Steve Cohen (the best boss ever) and our CEO, had been a part of the NGCRA for only a year when he agreed to meet me. The meeting went well, and I learned what a fantastic man he was with a fearless work ethic, passion for food, and is ONE OF THE MOST morally upright people I have ever encountered.
The World of Food sales isn’t something I would have imagined finding myself in. I accepted the 10-hour-a-week gig where I was calling my Chef pals to see if I could entice them to purchase their food from a private food distributor. I’ll be damned; I loved every minute of it.
It was just Steve and me for so long at first. We had a system where I would call a club and make an appointment as Steve would travel all over Florida, meeting chefs. He would drive, we would talk on the phone, planning our next moves, and he would mentor me.
Two years later, I was promoted to the Director of Member Services and have been in this niche role I have carved out for myself ever since. I will be celebrating 13 years with the NGCRA in February 2023. I thought this would be a short gig on my way back to the kitchen, but I was a newly divorced mom, and it afforded me time with my kiddo, so I “leaned in” and found out I liked fighting for other people! In two years I was given the new title of National Director of Member Services and Programs.
My job description is constantly changing, and I LOVE it! Being a chef is lonely. Not many people can relate to you, and vice versa. I often say that we are pirates; we hold sharp objects for a living and search for gold we may never find; covered in tattoos and scrapes, we bandage up instead of going to a doctor.
Water cooler moments are essential in all people’s lives – even Chefs. It’s critical to find your water cooler buddies. Gone are the days when we need to be the best and stay in our bubble. We should be building communities of Chefs in similar situations to grow, exchange, and bring more attention to the growth of our industry. This is precisely the culture I knew I wanted to grow by being in this magical role.
I love bringing a sense of community to our small, niche world. I want our members to know when I come calling; you will learn something, save money on something, or be celebrated for something. I can save a chef $21,000 a year just by switching mayonnaise or save 500 chefs money on fancy aprons, but I can also help you figure out how to pay the taxes you owe over the last five years.
One of the absolute highlights in my job is shouting from the rooftops to anyone that will listen that “club chefs are the best chefs” because I truly know they are; I know because I get to look behind the gates every single day.
We have all learned during the pandemic that sometimes, we need to hear that we are not alone. Whenever a chef called me and said they were struggling with X, Y, or Z, I could share that they weren’t alone and everyone was having the same issues and offer them any advice I could.
Someone once told me that if you can find a way to save the world, it makes dropping your child off at daycare much easier. I loved that I found that at the NGCRA. I did feel, in my own small way, like I was changing the world for the people that I knew who could really use it. Chefs!
GK: What plans do you have for your business in the future?
The sky is the limit. I hope to help our chefs with much more in the future. I would love to start a foundation to help chefs when they find themselves in need of mental and physical health issues. Food is beautiful and magical and life-changing, but it’s also at the expense of the kitchen team and Chef. It can be dark, alienating, and lonely, and you get taken advantage of quite often, and I am at my best when I am advocating for them.
I love recruiting in my free time, and I would like to see that being something we also offer! I want to start a podcast with chefs and talk about how they got where they are so that we can help the younger generations find a path back to the kitchens.
I like to think of myself as a glitter spreader and a selfish selfish eater! I help keep chefs happy, food sales low, and creativity flowing because if they aren’t cooking, then I’m not eating- my taste buds aren’t satisfied, and my stomach isn’t complete. I LOVE FOOD!
The National Golf Course Restaurant Association is a part of the IGCRA (International Golf Course Restaurant Association), the International Sport Facility Restaurant Association, and the International Food Association of Sweden (ISFRA and IFAAB). All were founded over a decade ago and are accessible to all Club members.
Showing no signs of slowing down, NGCRA has been eagerly servicing the needs of its growing number of members ever since.