Michael McCarthy, CEO and General Manager of Addison Reserve Country Club, Delray Beach, Florida, USA.
This is an interview from the Spring 2018 issue of Golf Kitchen Magazine.
John Fornaro CEO of Boardroom Magazine introduced me to Michael McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Addison Reserve Country Club in 2017. After meeting Michael, I quickly learned why. He has a talent for thinking on his feet and rebounding from ups and downs. Michael teaches us all that although a good education is important, sheer hard work, determination, self-belief, and resilience are what makes for a great life and career. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: You were initially a Chef, how did you become a General Manager of a Country Club?
I grew up in Secaucus, New Jersey in a blue-collar family. My Dad was an electrician, and my Mom was an incredible lady. I had some challenges growing up, including dealing with dyslexia. My mom had me participate in all kinds of different trades from woodshop to auto mechanics, and then we started cooking. She knew that going to a formal college would be tough for me. When I was in school, there wasn’t staff that could assist students like myself on an individual basis.
I started cooking at a young age and found a passion for it. I was hooked. There was that high that I got when I was getting my head kicked in at 7.30 pm on the line and also when I was interacting with the customer. I excelled at making them happy and doing unique things for them. It gave me great, great, satisfaction.
I had the opportunity to go to culinary school at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City; it was a community college as my family couldn't afford to send me to the Culinary Institute of America or Johnson and Wales. I was advanced in my skill sets because I had been working and cooking since the age of 14. For most of the students, this was the first time they were learning to cook, so I had the upper hand on everybody in the class. Most of the professors had catering jobs in Manhattan who were running restaurants on the side. I was also working at catering events in New York, and I came across one of my professors (Gary Bensky) that offered me a job to go to Lake Mohawk Country Club, for the summer. That was 1987, and at that time I didn't know what a country club was. I was a kid, I took the job, and then I needed a place to live, so they gave me a cottage right on the lake on the boardwalk. It was a hundred yards from the club, and it was all young people working there in the summer. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. We worked hard and played hard.
We were working a hundred hours a week, and the following year my professor brought me back as a sous chef. I spent eight years there. By the time I was 21 we had built their business so much on the catering side that he could no longer handle both the university and the executive chef job. He couldn't juggle both, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He stepped aside, and I became the executive chef, and he began working for me. Toward the end of my time at Lake Mohawk, I took over the food and beverage department. I was very good with the numbers. Not long after that, I wound up getting an opportunity to open up a restaurant, and I left the club just when my now wife Irene and I were about to get married. We were going to open up a restaurant in Clifton, New Jersey for the owner of Bareli's Restaurant which was a trendy spot at that time. The day we arrived his wife filed for a divorce and locked up all the money. I was super frustrated, and he offered to move me back into the restaurant world, which is not what I signed up for. We had a baby on the way, and here I am flipping omelets and making pasta. A search firm called me and introduced me to a club in North Caldwell; a super high-end Jewish club called Green Brook Country Club in Jersey. I knew nothing about the Jewish culture. I didn't think I had an opportunity at that job and I was just 25. I was the youngest guy interviewing for the job. I met with the search firm that worked with the board at the club. Three incredible people sat on that board. One was the founder of Equal the sugar substitute, one was the founder of Boston Chicken, and the third was the founder of Restaurant Associates. They understood food, and they knew how to make change happen. These guys took a liking to me, and I got the job despite my young age. It was December, and we turned the culinary operation upside down immediately.
The members were excited going into our first season. Then suddenly, the general manager left going into my first season, and I was still learning about the members, their wants, and needs, and we didn't have a leader. I went to my key guys on the board, and I said, " I have an idea for you. I know that my professor who taught me almost everything I know is available because the universities are off in the summer and the chances of finding a new general manager right now are slim to none in New Jersey. If there's anybody available right now, well, there's a reason they're out of work. Why don't I call him? We'll put him in the kitchen. I'll go out to the front of the house, and we will stabilize everything. That way the food will stay consistent. Then in September when he goes back to university, I'll go back in the kitchen. You will have the entire offseason to find yourself a new leader."
September came around, and I was ready to go back in the kitchen. They said, "the general manager's position is your job if you want it." I still remember the day. They agreed to do it on an interim basis. They asked me about clothing. I had one suit, one dark green suit, and no ties. I'll never forget. I got to go to my first Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, and a custom men's shop; they took me shopping and filled my closet overnight!
In September, when my professor went back to the university, I brought in my former sous chef, Ray Perdas, who was with me for eight years at Lake Mohawk and my college roommate as the Executive Chef.
GK: When did you begin to discover Florida Country Clubs?
After about five years at Green Brook Country Club, I started to get bored. I wanted more. Irene and I started to travel to Florida each February. I had been watching the turnover in New Jersey and New York, and I'm like, boy, I'm young, and if I ever lose my job here, it's going to be difficult to find another one, and we're probably going to have to move whenever that happens. I was always looking ahead, you know, the politics - one day the board comes in and doesn't like you, the next, you're out on the street.
Irene was an engineer in communications for AT&T. She had the flexibility of working remotely, and I spent my time checking out all of these country clubs. Every corner you turn in Florida, there's another country club. I said to Irene "this is a much better lifestyle. First of all, my off-season here would be the summer. That's when the kids areoff from school. Up north, my offseason was in January, February, and March. What good is that? You’re off, and the kids are in school. What am I doing? The seasons just needed to flip for us."
I had reached out to my friend Jay DiPietro over at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, and he made an introduction to Norm Spitzig at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, who hired me 1998. I came down as a club manager for Norm, who was a legendary manager in our business, and the former president of CMAA. We relocated our family and a year into it; he retired and went into the search business. I was only 29 with a young family and very worried.
GK: What did you do?
BallenIsles was at the time, the fifth largest country club in the USA, we were doing 30 million a year in revenue, had over 450 employees, and I am just learning this whole Florida residential thing, and the developer came to me and told me that they were going to go through this process of a national search. At the time, the members, whom I had a good following with took out a petition and 600 signed it to give me an opportunity at the general manager role. The headhunter, John Sibbald, who is the founder of The Platinum Clubs America and owned the largest search firm company in club management at the time; came in and met with the board and several members on the search committee. The members had told him at that point that there was a tremendous support to give me the opportunity. John turned around and said, "What have you got to lose? He's a young rising star. If this doesn't work out a year from now, we'll come back, and we'll do a national search." I got the job. I took BallenIsles, a non-ranked club, through turnover from developer to member-owned, in an eight-year period down to number 16th ranked Platinum Club in the country.
GK: What brought you to Addison Reserve Country Club?
At the time in 2006, I was the President of the Florida Chapter of the CMAA. Addison Reserve had gone through an incredible amount of staff turnover five years before me speaking to them. The first five years was controlled by the developer; this was probably one of the most successful real estate projects in the country. They built this incredible club and community and turned it over in a seven-year period, 717 homes, 27 holes of golf and facilities, that's how hot the real estate market was at that time. The developers were in and out of here. The members wanted control. They were going to run the club, and they churned through a GM a year for a five-year period. They had a 76 percent employee turnover rate. They had another project under construction called the Esplanade in 2006. They were almost a year behind schedule, and they were $5,000,000 over budget. I was asked to come in speak to the board about governance and how we did it under a developer's model of club governance versus the way they were operating. They had 43 people on the House Committee, 25 people on the Social Committee, 27 people on the Green Committee. It was a complete nightmare. They had 25 people on the finance committee. Every one of those individuals knew what everybody was getting paid. That meant the whole club knew what everybody was getting paid. It was complete chaos.
As I got done speaking to them, and learning what their issues were, I started to share how we operated at BallenIsles under a developer with clear goals, objectives and strategic plans and how the professionals are running these businesses and that those professionals are being held accountable for their daily performance. I asked one significant question. I said, “If you had the opportunity to bring back that big bad developer that you all hated when he was here, would you bring him back?" And every person in the room said, yes, because they had lost control of their business. They all agreed that they would be better off with a developer. They asked me if I would consider. I had no interest in the job. That evening they said, listen, we've interviewed a bunch of people over the last six months. Nobody operates the way you operate. "Would you consider coming to Addison Reserve?" they gestured. I said, "there is no way, the clubs half the size, literally half the size." I was accustomed to 54 holes of golf. There are just 27 here. "You're not going to be able to afford me. There's no way I'm going to do this I'd be bored," I replied. "We have a lot of projects we want to to do. You're the right guy. We will put a deal together, you will see." That was eleven years ago. If you look back at our success here at Addison Reserve, you will see that we have a goal driven organization, not an agenda driven organization. We've been that way for over eleven years now.
Over that eleven years, the club’s revenue has grown from $15,500M to around $26M. We are a Distinguished Elite Club Award recipient and are recognized as a Platinum Club of America, ranking #7 among the top 150 Platinum Country Clubs in the nation and ranking #34 in the Platinum Clubs of the World. Addison Reserve is also recognized as one of America's Healthiest Clubs, ranking in the top ten percent in the nation with a focus on health and wellness for members and staff.
In 2009, our membership voted with an over 80% approval to enhance our clubhouse. In 2010, we added 24,000 square feet to our existing clubhouse and did a complete refurbishment to existing space. The 70,000 square foot clubhouse now boasts five dining areas, card rooms, golf pro shop and administrative offices.
We continue to move forward – at the end of 2016, the membership approved a new Esplanade project. Construction on the new project, located in a former parking area adjacent to the clubhouse will have 35,000 square feet under air with increased footprints in our ever growing in popularity Fitness Center, Spa, casual dining restaurant and bar and aquatic center. This new project will be adjacent to the 11 har-tru tennis courts, which will not be affected, and near the full basketball court and four pickleball courts. We are South Florida – and the lifestyle continues to trend to being outdoors. This new project will offer lushly landscaped areas with water features and soft seating and will also provide us the opportunity to capitalize on 365 days a year al fresco dining venue for our members.
The Spa and Fitness Center will be amazing, and I could go on for hours – but I’d rather invite you to come see us after the first part of next year!
GK: Tell us about your succession plan.
These places must last forever, and you must make sure the success that you are creating now is going to continue after you have left. We have a succession plan for all our positions, and it's something I've never heard anybody discuss before. It's fascinating and right now the reason we've promoted superintendents, golf pros and chefs is that we owe it to them. It is my responsibility to develop people. I have a five-year rule. If they have reached their full potential with us I will start marketing them to other clubs to find them their first GM job. You will still need to close the deal. In my career we’ve graduated eight club managers to general managers at other clubs in addition to numbers of chefs and superintendents to clubs around the country.
We owe that to our people. You know, some people in the business like to keep people forever, but I believe that people deserve to reach their full potential and maximize their earnings. I want every single person here to do better financially. If they have reached their maximum growth potential with us, we have a responsibility as a company to find more good people to train. There are many more opportunities nowadays, and it makes it harder for us. But we all get better when we bring in some new talent. They have innovative ideas. I get to learn how the younger generations think today and I think we just all get better as an organization and we keep repeating this cycle. Some come back, and others don't. But it's definitely worth the effort. We are proud to say that our employee turnover rate is less than 7%.
GK: Tell us about your leadership principles?
This is real simple – surround yourself with the most talented individuals around. Share your vision for constant, never-ending improvement. Be persistent as possible in your pursuit of excellence. Lead by example with a great attitude and constantly show appreciation for your teammates.
GK: What are some of the communication struggles?
We teach all of our team members that the members are always, right – they are the purpose of our work. I mean that's still a big customer service thing, correct? However often when the issues get to me, they're not always right. I've got to tell them no, I've got to tell them whether their behavior was unacceptable, or their kids’ clothing was inappropriate. I don't care what the trends are today, this is the dress code, and we're not changing it. Those situations are always most difficult, but we can’t lose focus that the club has certain standards and rules and they must be adhered to.
GK: Let's talk about Executive Chef Zach Bell.
I found Zach Bell at Café Boulud; Daniel Boulud had taken over the restaurant at the Brazillian Court Hotel in Palm Beach and Zach was his executive chef. My wife and I loved his food. I am probably not allowed to go to Boulud ever again! [laughs]
Since hiring Zach, it's been an incredible ride for all of us here. We've changed the dining landscape at Addison Reserve together for the better. His innovative menus have been something almost unheard of in the club the industry. Frequent menu changes, pop-up events, and traditional chef dinners round out a round out a full dining experience for our members. Zach is the most talented chef I have ever worked alongside of.
Zach is a workaholic, and like every executive chef works a great number of hours, especially during the season. Cooking was his entire life when he was in the restaurant world. He had no hobbies or time to develop any outside interests. We pushed him on that, and now he has a life outside of here as well. I understand how you can be so involved in your profession, but now when he goes home, he can find that balance. He’s finally had a chance to embrace the joy of living in South Florida and in his spare hours, you’ll likely find him enjoying the ocean, his backyard fire pit for cooking, of course, his dogs and his wife, Jennifer, who shares his passion for the culinary arts.
You can read more about Executive Chef Zach Bell in a future edition of Golf Kitchen Magazine and also in the second Golf Kitchen Cook Book, coming 2019.
Farmer Lee Jones, The Chef's Garden, Huron, Ohio, USA.
This is an interview from the Fall 2017 launch issue of Golf Kitchen Magazine.
A FARMER WITH A HEART FOR HUMANITY
Farmer Lee Jones always wears his trademark overalls and red bowtie as a symbol of his commitment to sustainable agricultural practices.
Ever since the early days of The Chef’s Garden’s creation over thirty years ago, he has remained tirelessly committed to not only ensuring that the family’s 300 acre farm remains one of the most innovative and pioneering in the world, but to fostering a nuanced conversation with the chefs in our industry who look to the farm to grow fresh vegetables that are as aesthetically pleasing on the plate as they are flavorful to the palate. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Your family suffered a lot of hardship in your younger years. What were some of the challenges?
In the 1930’s, there were approximately 340 vegetable growers in Huron, Ohio, located in Erie County. Earl Lauer Butz, who was the Secretary of Agriculture in the USA in the 1970’s sent a message to all farmers, to “either get big or get out.” At that time in America, most of the universities were financially strapped, so the chemical and pharmaceutical companies began to offer grants to the universities if they researched to help the farmers. This research, not surprisingly, needed to encompass the use of their chemicals.
My parents were encouraged to use chemicals on their farm and were taught how to use them in a time when farming was especially challenging. Bank loans reached rates of 21% interest, making it very difficult to make ends meet. On top of this, my parent’s farm suffered a devastating hail storm, and it completely wiped out all the crops. At 19 years old, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my parents, my brother and sister, and all of our neighbors, along with our competitors and all of those who wanted to see our farm fail. Everything my family owned was auctioned off right down to my mother’s car; we literally crawled away.
GK: How did you rebuild? How did you work with chefs to create a unified vision?
We had to start all over again. At that time, American agriculture was exploding. Mass production using chemicals had become the norm.
We met a European-influenced chef, Iris Bailin, who worked for a large brokerage firm and who eventually became the food editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. Iris was always looking for produce grown for flavor and quality without the use of chemicals.
We were desperate to survive in farming, so, when Iris said to us "just maybe there could be a demand for the small family farmer in America," we latched on to her idea, and we would not let Iris go. When she found out that we were willing to grow for flavor and not yield, and grow the products chefs were looking for without chemicals, she introduced us to other chefs who were looking for the same thing.
She hooked us up with some amazing chefs from The Ritz-Carlton, who were heavily influenced by European chefs. The local country clubs began to order from us, and Jean Louis Palladin, who came from France to the Watergate Hotel in DC, took us under his wing. Jean Louis then introduced us to his friends, which included Michel Richard, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and others. They all helped spread the word for us.
We had the support of so many incredible chefs that we knew we needed to keep up the integrity of our products. We began to work harmoniously with nature rather than try to outsmart it. We began by building healthy soil. Our saying here is "healthy soil equals healthy plants, equals healthy people."
GK: Tell us about the Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI)
In the beginning, all we wanted was to get chefs to come here. We put them in hotels and bed and breakfasts, and did anything we could to get them here. We wanted them to go into the fields, too, because we wanted to listen to what they were looking for.
Sixteen years ago, we had the idea to build the CVI. We wanted to build a place right here on the farm so that chefs could harvest products, bring them back to the kitchen and play, experiment and figure out ways to use the products.
The project was too big to do on our own, so I approached my mentors: Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ed Brown. My wife Mary and I flew to New York with the blueprints to present our vision. They were all so excited. I said, "I need you to lend your names to this to help us pull it off." They were very eager to help; they went to kitchen companies on our behalf, they got them to donate equipment, china, silverware, chairs, tables and stoves.
We now have agreements with a lot of these companies that, when they have a new piece of equipment with new technology, they can take the old one out and install the new one. It makes sense to them as we have over 500 chefs visiting a year. We might get a Ritz-Carlton chef here, and he comes and plays with the newest Rational and finds out how sexy it is, then he goes back and orders three of them. The CVI has now evolved into the learning center for chefs. Chefs are under so much pressure; they have to do the hiring and marketing, entertain the clients and train staff. The more successful they become, the less they get to do what brought them to the business in the first place. Here, they are reminded of why they came to this craft, the love of cooking.
GK: How else are you inspiring future culinarians and food enthusiasts?
We are teaching the value of seasonality; it's amazing how many people, even chefs, don't fully understand what products are available during what season. It's hard to explain to people that, when asparagus is in season, we should eat it three times a day and, when it's out of season, we should lust for it for ten more months.
We are trying to reconnect people to local farmers markets and it is working. I believe that there are more farmers markets today than at any other time in the history of America, and there were more vegetable seeds sold in 2016 than any time in the history of America.
GK: In your opinion, when did this disconnect with our food begin?
World War II changed everything. You couldn't buy shoes, as there was no rubber, it was being used to build equipment to fight the war. You couldn't buy a new car, as metal was in short supply. Food was rationed. Women were tasked to leave the home and work in factories to help build machine guns and army tanks.
They were in survival mode but, as that happened, something else changed: the urgency and the priorities changed, and it became about the convenience of food rather than the integrity of the food itself.
When the war was over, and society had moved forward, women realized they could earn their own money out of the home, and that is when the frozen TV dinners came about, and convenience foods cooked in a microwave became mainstream. The pendulum had swung too far, with the problem now two generations deep.
GK: How do you explain Genetic Modification? The good and the bad?
I think that genetic modification, when used ethically could and does have its place, but there are a lot of unknowns and we don’t believe in using this process. It is being used all around us, and by good farmers who are supplying the demand that exists. That demand, unfortunately, is for cheap food.
America produces food more cheaply than any other country in the world as it relates to our incomes, but here is the conundrum. We also have the highest healthcare costs in the world.
Every farmer around us is farming with genetically modified products. They don’t have any ability to control the price that they get for their produce, so the only thing they can try to do is to control the cost of their input. It’s all about cost reduction for them. It’s a commodity market, all about when to sell and when to hold. To take this further, the chemical companies tell them they can help by giving them a genetically modified seed. The seeds are genetically modified to withstand the chemicals, yet it’s the chemicals that have killed the soil.
So here at The Chef’s Garden, we don’t and won’t use these techniques. Instead, we have found that allowing fields to sit fallow and going back to the use of cover crops to rebuild the soil works better for us.
GK: What is the genetic selection?
Genetic selection has been around for hundreds of years. You take the good characteristics of one plant and cross them with another. It’s just hybridization; you are crossing two plants. It’s an entirely smart way to do things. There are no health issues; it's a normal way to grow and develop better products. For example, if you like the firmness of one tomato and the flavor of another and its disease resistance, you cross them. It's just genetic selection.
~ by Diana DeLucia
For more information about Farmer Lee Jones, The Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef’s Garden please visit their website: www.chefs-garden.com
Rhy Waddington, Executive Chef at Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York, USA.
This is an interview from the FALL 2017 launch issue of Golf Kitchen Magazine.
We eat with our eyes first. Well, at least I do, don’t you? Scroll through your Instagram feed or turn on the cooking channels, you can’t taste it, you can’t smell it but your eyes can still take you to that place where your stomach starts to rumble, your mouth waters and you’re inspired to now cook a dish you hadn’t planned on. All because someone else had a vision and laid it on a plate.
Rhy Waddington is one of those visionaries who has long been tempting our eyes with his delectable artwork. Scroll through his website or Instagram feed and tell me you can’t help but salivate at his dishes. His innovative style has had mouths watering from long ago. From back in his earlier years at his first restaurant “Waddingtons at Kergunyah,” to his stint in Southern California to now, where the lucky members of Winged Foot Golf Club are treated nearly every day to his culinary showcase. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rhy to speak with him about where his passion for cooking came from. Oh, and of course don’t think I let him get away without cooking me lunch! How could I resist the opportunity! ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: What are some of the most memorable restaurants where you worked in Australia and why?
At the very beginning of my career, I worked for Noelle Quinn at Mon Cherie Restaurant and Zillion Food Studio, both in Albury-Wodonga. Noelle was a great ambassador for local farms, and through her guidance, I became even more enthusiastic about creating new menu items and sourcing local produce. When I returned to the North East Region after a few years away I joined the board of the Hume Murray Food Bowl, which Noelle founded and coordinated for many years. The Hume Murray Food Bowl was an initiative created to bring exposure to the regional producers, restaurants, and chefs. In 2002, I was offered the Executive Chef position at a restaurant called The Bank, in Beechworth, Victoria, which was a regional fine dining farm to table establishment.
GK: In 2003 you opened your own restaurant, tell us about that experience?
Yes, Waddington’s at Kergunyah, which we opened on my parent’s 900 acre Hereford beef farm. We wanted to take the farm to table experience to the next level by growing and supplying our produce. But we wanted our guests to have the authentic farm life experience also.
The farm was an actual working cattle farm, so guests were politely reminded to close the gate behind them so the cattle wouldn’t wander onto the road. Yes – customers had to get out of the car and open the gate just to visit us!
GK: What motivated you to travel to the United States?
I was offered a position with the Bondi Group to come to San Diego, California to help open Bondi Bar and Kitchen, located in the Gaslamp district in San Diego. Chris Behre was the consulting chef for the company, and I was the Executive Chef of the venue.
GK; How did you find your way to Winged Foot Golf Club?
A good friend introduced me to the Executive Chef at Winged Foot. After meeting the Chef, I was offered a position here in 2009 as the Executive Sous Chef and promoted to Executive Chef soon after that.
GK; What were your thoughts about working at a private golf club such as Winged Foot?
I was always a restaurant chef and had never thought about the private club world as an option for me. But as an avid golfer, I was intrigued as WFGC is one of the best golf courses in the world. Our members eat at the best restaurants in the world, and that is the standard of cuisine they demand here. It’s been a great experience, and I have a lot of freedom to practice my culinary visions.
GK: Do the members drive your menu?
The members have put a lot of faith and trust in us over the last seven years so we can pretty much do whatever we want. We always try to balance our cuisine by keeping a good mix of classic favorites and the introduction of new dishes. We like to change the menu up every week to keep it fresh for our members, and it also motivates and inspires my team to learn continually and grow.
GK: How do you plan your menus?
There’s always a balance required when creating a menu. We need to remember who our customer is, and as a golf club, we have a broad array of favorites and requirements. We like to use the best produce and present it in more of a modern way than you might expect at your local eatery down the street.
Only the members and their guests can dine here, so it is crucial to change our menu weekly and create new and exciting experiences. We find that frequently changing the menu also entices them to return on a regular basis, and also gives us great feedback on their likes and dislikes.
GK: How do you source all of your products, especially having the passion you have for farm to table dining?
It’s tough since we do things here on such a big scale, with as many as 400 covers a day. We have a lot of corporate functions and upscale events as well, so it’s always busy. While it makes it challenging for me to use smaller farms without the necessary infrastructure and pricing model, I have built relationships with local farmers and purveyors who jump at the chance to feature their product on our menus. We have excellent access to local quail, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, suckling pig, fresh duck eggs and a variety of other produce. We also grow a lot of herbs on site in our kitchen garden. And as you know, I have very strict guidelines on what is acceptable, and we only want the best!
GK: Tell me about your culinary team here at Winged Foot.
When I took the job, I knew we had to have a culinary team that was well respected in the industry. What I found was that a lot of chefs and culinary staff think that a golf club is where you go when you retire, and they have a notion that the chefs in golf clubs don’t know what they are doing, which is not the case at all.
I have assembled an energetic team who are passionate about cooking. I have key staff who return every year, but I also utilize the student internship programs from CIA (Culinary Institute of America) as well as Johnson and Wales University. I’m a strong believer in providing opportunities for young people, and we have such an amazing stage to start some of these kids off the right way. We have a variety of training programs to educate them both in the kitchen as well as the front of house staff. While I am the face of the culinary team, I have some great people behind me. My Pastry Chef Katie is amazingly talented, and my Sous Chefs Chrissie and Adrien are the backbone of our culinary team. They take on the majority of the responsibility for sourcing ingredients and making sure the staff is trained on the weekly menus.
GK: You are the first golf club team that was ever invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. Tell us about that experience.
The events coordinator at the James Beard House invited us to cook there. We had to get it approved by our General Manager Colin Burns, as well as the members, but they loved the idea and were very supportive. We put a menu together, and it was a superb experience and great exposure for the young kids and seasonal staff that were in the kitchen. It also provided the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) students with an extraordinary finish to their externship. It was like a celebration for the time they were here at Winged Foot.
A lot of the members whom I thought were plain eaters were blown away by the dinner. Many had not heard of the James Beard House or realized the significance of the honor to be invited to cook there. However, after attending and doing a little research, they clearly understood how special it was. We have since participated in numerous dinners and events with them.
GK: Do you enjoy working with the General Manager Colin Burns? He has been at Winged Foot for over 20 years.
Colin knows the members very well. When I came here, Colin wanted to change things up. He realized that remaining relevant with our cuisine was necessary, and he wanted to keep up to date and fresh. Before my arrival, the menu only changed three times a year, which isn’t what you would expect for a prestigious club like Winged Foot. When you have two of the best golf courses in the world and a club house that is recognized globally, you need to have a culinary program to match! That has been our goal, and Colin has been a huge supporter of our team, and we are certainly very grateful.
Rhy’s ability in the kitchen has provided him the honor of cooking at the revered James Beard House on four separate occasions making him the first Chef from a private club setting to do so.
Rhy is as an avid believer in the programs the JBF run, as he is passionate about the culinary stars of the future. His modern approach to classic cuisine continues to wow the members of WFGC with his weekly menu changes.
His superb craftsmanship of innovative and delicious dishes keeps them coming back for more and more. Each dish is a true piece of art. As I said, we eat with our eyes first. However, his food tastes even better than it looks. Trust me.
~ by Diana DeLucia
The James Beard Foundation is an NYC based non-profit culinary arts organization with a mission to “celebrate, nurture, and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.” www.jamesbeard.org
recipe by Pato Pérsico, Executive Chef at Punta Mita, Nayarit, Mexico
In a saucepan, set the water to boil. Once boiling, add salt and cook the pasta. Remember that fresh pasta will reach al dente quickly, so it should be cooked just before the sauce is ready.
In a hot pan with olive oil, I braise the shrimp for two minutes on each side, until they change color, then I add the garlic and before it turns brown, I flambé it with the Ricard. Be careful, because the flame is very strong, and you don’t want to lose your eyelashes to the dish! Once the alcohol cooks off, add the cream and reduce until a thick sauce forms. I add a few drops of yellow food coloring to give a touch of color.
I place the pasta al dente at the base of the dish and add the shrimp, one by one, to add height to the dish. Add the sauce and, as a finishing touch, I decorate the dish with parsley, petals and balsamic reduction.
I recommend pairing this dish with a crisp rosé from the south of France.
CHEF NOTE: This delicious dish is very easy to make at home and, without a doubt, you will delight all your guests! And if you want to try my version of Côte d'Azur Shrimp, I will be happy to create this wonderful dish for you when you visit me in Punta Mita.
recipe by Clara Lene Kelly, Mixologist at Kohanaiki Golf Club and Resort, Kona, Hawaii, USA
Muddle mint leaves, one cucumber ribbon, lime juice and simple syrup.
Add gin and ice and shake.
Double strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Thread cucumber onto a bamboo skewer, top with mint sprig and place across the coupe glass.
recipe by Michael Ponzio, Executive Chef at Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois, USA
(Yields: 10-8 ounce Meatballs)
• 1 pound Ground Beef Chuck
• 1 pound Ground Veal Leg
• 1 pound Ground Pork Belly
• ¼ pound Ciabatta Bread (chopped)
• ¼ bunch Parsley (chopped)
• ¾ cup Whole Milk
• 1 Tbs. Ricotta Dolce Cheese
• 3 ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
• ½ tsp. Black Pepper
• 2 Whole Eggs
• ¾ Tbs. Garlic (chopped)
• ½ pound Romano Cheese (grated)
(Yields: 1 ¾ quarts)
• 3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
• 2-32 oz. cans San Marzano Tomatoes, Crushed
• 6 Basil Leaves (chopped)
• Kosher Salt (to taste)
• Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
(Yields: 2 cups)
• 3 cups Ricotta Dolce Cheese
• 2 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place the beef, pork, and veal in a large bowl. Gently break apart the meat and set the bowl aside.
In a second bowl, combine the milk, eggs, ricotta, and bread in a bowl and mix well to incorporate the milk into the bread. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the milk can soak into the bread.
Add salt, pepper, parsley, and cheese to bread mixture and mix until well incorporated.
Gradually add the meat to bread mixture and gently mix by hand until thoroughly combined.
Refrigerate the meat mixture for ½ hour then begin to form the mixture into 8-ounce meatballs.
Fry the meatballs in a pan with olive oil until golden brown on all sides and then place in a 350-degree oven until they reach 145 degrees internally.
Remove from the oven and allow them to rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
Chef Note: When making these meatballs, it is important to rest them before serving. This will allow the proteins to reabsorb some of the liquids they lost in cooking and give you a more succulent meatball.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil.
Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2–3 minutes to a light golden brown.
Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Allow the tomatoes to cook, stirring frequently, for 1½ hours.
Add the basil, season to your liking, and cook for five more minutes.
Chef Note: Look for tomatoes that are San Marzano or San Marzano style. They are available in most stores. If you can only find them as whole peeled tomatoes, you can crush them by hand when adding them to the pot.
Drain the excess moisture out of the ricotta.
Place the cheese in a food processor and begin to whip the cheese.
Slowly drizzle the olive oil in until fully incorporated.
Set the cheese aside until ready to use.
Chef note: Do not let the ricotta whip for too long or it will become watery. This process should be quick, only to emulsify the olive oil.
Place the meatball on a plate and evenly coat it with marinara sauce.
Top the meatball with a dollop of the whipped ricotta and drizzle olive oil over the top to finish the dish.
Bruno Giacosa Barbera d'Alba
recipe by Chardae Plinski and Candice Christensen, Mixologists, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois, USA
Pour all ingredients into a martini shaker and mix well.
Serve in a martini glass and garnish with raspberries, blackberries and pineapple.
recipe by Patrick Heymann, Executive Chef at Kohanaiki, Kona, Hawaii, USA
CHEF NOTE: Ogonori also called ogo or sea moss, is a type of edible seaweed eaten along the coasts of Japan, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.
After prepping all ingredients gently mix together immediately before serving.
Place freshly mixed poke on a thin bed of chilled lettuce and garnish with thin sliced scallions and a pinch of red ogo.
Should be eaten cold so serve immediately.
Selbach Oster Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken
Golf Kitchen had the pleasure of touring a farm to table bourbon distillery “Litchfield Distillery,” located in Litchfield County, Connecticut in May 2017. Here is what brothers David, and Jack Baker had to tell us about their passion for home-grown bourbon, gin, and vodka.
GK: Tell us about the evolution of Litchfield Distillery.
Jack: Our family business is Crystal Rock Bottled Water Company. We have been in operation since 1914. My brother David has always had solid background knowledge on whiskey, so we decided to footprint the brown spirit, bourbon. It’s been a four-year plan to date. We’ve been distilling for about two and a half years now.
GK: How did this evolve into a second family business?
David: My brothers Jack, Peter and I, were looking for something to do together, and we had read some articles about the growthof distilleries out on the West Coast, and we didn’t think that trend had started here on the East Coast yet. I went out to Seattle and toured a bunch of distilleries, and came back really enthusiastic. We began looking at buildings and equipment and all of a sudden we had a building, the equipment showed up, and we thought we better learn how to do this!
GK: What’s the reception you’re getting with your products?
David: I think people, especially in Connecticut, love a local product. It’s seen as local in Massachusetts and New York as well. A lot of individuals from all over visit this part of the state, it’s a special place, and we love hearing their stories.
GK: Tell us about the process. What makes your bourbon, gin, and vodka unique?
Jack: For a bourbon to be considered bourbon it has to be at least 51 percent corn. We’re 70 percent corn, 25 percent rye and5% barley. Bourbon has to have at least 51% corn, distilled at less than 160 proof, barreled at 125 proof or less in a new oak charred container, and bottled at 80 proof or above.
Our gin base is 90% corn and 10% barley. This mix creates a high-quality neutral-flavored alcohol that is then redistilled with the botanicals to get the gin flavor. Gin has to have juniper berries to achieve that classic gin flavor.
Our vodka is 100% corn. Vodka is made from just about anything that will ferment.
Distillation has to be above 190 proof so that there’s no distinctive character, taste, or color. We consider our vodka to have its own unique characteristics that make it a little bit more special.
For the gin, we make a vodka first and then redistill it with the juniper. Our unique blend of botanicals contains juniper, coriander, elderberry, and citrus, all of which creates complexity and a distinctive signature taste profile.
GK: What came first, the bourbon, the gin, or the vodka?
David: The bourbon and the gin came first, we didn’t intend to make vodka. When our brands got some high acceptance from our consumer base, they were asking when we would make a vodka. In time we gave our customers what they requested.
GK: Where do you get your corn and rye germination?
David: Our corn and rye come from Lion Rock Farm in Sharon, Connecticut, about 18 miles away. For our bourbon, 95% of it is Litchfield County grown. We’re looking to source a local barley. The barley needs to be malted, which means it is then moistened, germinated, and dried. That creates an enzyme in the seed that converts starches to sugar. All these grains in their dried germinated stages arestarches, and they need to be cooked at certain temperatures and pH’s with the enzymes to convert starches to sugars.
GK: Do you do a steeping process with your vanilla?
David: We’re doing an extraction from the vanilla beans. We take our two-year bourbon, our straight bourbon, and we put the vanilla extraction into the bourbon to bring the flavor to a certain level, and then we place a Madagascar vanilla bourbon bean in each bottle, which is always evolving. The vanilla bean will continue to add flavor.
GK: Do you anticipate doing any other kind of flavoring after vanilla?
David: We do a coffee flavor, which goes back to our other company Crystal Rock-Cool Beans Coffee. We worked with our roaster in Hartford to develop a profile grind for it; a course ground Arabica coffee bean. We steep for 24 hours, and we use cold brew coffee to do the dilution instead of just distilled water.
GK: The equipment is pristine.
David: Thank you. Most of it is from Germany; the main still is a Mueller. As you know, in the United States we had prohibition, and spirit-still manufacturers stopped making this type of equipment. So the European still evolved while our industry stalled for a while. German craftsmanship is second to none, the technology is impeccable, and it’s producing splendid spirits for us.
GK: Tell us about your still.
Jack: It’s a 500 L. still. They call it a hybrid still because it uses two different types of distillation together. The left side is known as the traditional pot still. That makes a great flavored bourbon. The right side, the column, is a column still, invented in the mid-1920s. That gives us control
over the proof of the product that we're going to produce. We do three distillations a day. We distill bourbon to 150 proof and our gin and vodka bases to 185 proof.GK: Jack, tell us a bit about the charring process.
Jack: The barrels have to be brand new and charred on the inside. We char by igniting the barrels with coal and let it burn to our specifications. Charring brings out the smokiness. The charred coal helps caramelize the sugars on the inside of the barrel, so right behind the char, there is what's called a caramelized sap ring, and that gets dissolved by the whiskey and brings out vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel flavors.
GK: Tell us about the bottle.
David: We found a bottle that we thought would fit our image and we call that a flask-style bottle. But if you look at it, it's got a nice chunk of thick glass at the bottom, which is part of what makes it a quality product.
GK: The logo?
David: We hired Miles Finch Innovation to help us design the logo. We were struggling to capture the right perspective and attitude in the illustration, so we eventually had one of our employees push a barrel across the floor and took about 200 pictures of him until we got the profile we liked. Then the agency created the icon artwork from that, which ultimately became our logo.
GK: It looks like you might be able to hold events here, do you?
David: Yes, thank you, to us, it's like no other. We give tours and tastings. We are getting astonishing acceptance from the
the surrounding communities, and our guests are becoming more and more frequent.
Jack: Do you know what the angel's share is?
GK: No, I have no idea.
Jack: There are the angel's share and the devil's cut. We lose about 15 percent to evaporation, so the alcohol that leaves the barrels and goes to the heavens is called the angel's share. What stays in the barrel is what's called the devil's cut.
~ by Leo Bushey
For more infomation about Litchfield Distillery: www. litchfielddistillery.com
recipe by Doug Blair, Executive Chef at Cassique at Kiawah Island Club, South Carolina, USA.
Bread Crumb Topping
Melt the butter in a pan, then whip in the flour to make a roux. The consistency should be like creamy peanut butter.
Cook the roux over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Reduce the shellfish demi-glace to 8 oz. for the correct strength.
Heat the milk and 8 ounces of shellfish demi-glace together to just under a simmer. Add to roux, whipping constantly until incorporated.
Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes, then season with the cayenne pepper and nutmeg and remove from heat.
After removing from heat, stir in the four cheeses, gradually starting with the pepper jack, then followed by the other three (no particular order) until the cheese is completely melted, resulting in a smooth cheese sauce. Do not return to the stove at this point to avoid a grainy texture.
While the cheese sauce is being made, boil the tubetti pasta in salted water until very al dente.
When the pasta is done, add it to the cheese sauce then stir and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Fold in the crab and place entire the mixture in a 10-inch round casserole dish.
Caramelize the yellow onion in some canola oil on low heat to cook evenly, stirring frequently. When the onion is light brown it is done.
Sprinkle in 2 oz. of each grated cheese, then add the crispy prosciutto and then the caramelized onions on top of the mac. Cover it with plastic wrap then foil and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. If baking from a cold state, the cooking time is 40 minutes.
Bread Crumb Topping
While the mac is baking, melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the panko crumbs. Stir with a rubber spatula until the crumbs are evenly coated with butter.
Add the chopped herbs and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
When the mac has baked for 15 minutes, remove the plastic and foil and scatter the bread crumbs evenly across the top. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes until the breadcrumbs brown evenly and the surface is bubbling.
Serve hot in the cooking vessel.
Chardonnay, Edi Simcic, Riserva, Goriška Brda, Slovenia, 2009.