Tim Recher, CEC, AAC, CWX, Director of Culinary Operations at Quail West Golf and Country Club (Naples, Fla.), hails from Chicago. His wife is from New York City. You can imagine the turmoil in their house when the topic of pizza arises.
“I’m not saying I’m right—but I’m not wrong, either,” jokes Recher.
Personal pizza preferences aside, Recher is the driving force behind Quail’s ever-evolving pizza program, which averages about 30 pies per day. All the dough used across the club is handmade, a process that required enormous research and development in the early days.
“The biggest challenge when you start a pizza program is finding a dough recipe you like, testing it, and then managing the dough flow,” says Recher. “We’ve committed to 100 percent scratch baking, and we have a team of four chefs, led by Pastry Chef Brianna Rogers, who handles our dough and production for our pizza program.”
By committing to the fresh dough, Rogers and her team must plan far enough ahead to meet demand while also having a plan for anything left over.
“[Rogers] and her team will stretch the leftover dough to make lavash for our bread baskets,” says Recher, adding that the lavash has become one of the most popular breads. “We’ve never run out of dough for the pizza program in three years. Rogers is a master at mise en place and reducing waste.”
Quail’s gas-fired deck oven is located inside the bakeshop and produces most of its Neapolitan-style pizzas. The club has plans to add a second pizza oven to a future restaurant on a different floor.
Recently, Quail purchased a wood-fired pizza oven on a trailer that the team hauls to the driving range. One of the club’s sous chefs will work the wood-fired oven to produce personalized pizzas for golfers in 45-second turns. During the most recent men’s invitational, Quail’s culinary team produced 100 pizzas in one hour from this oven.
“Quail is a residential club with 650 homes in the community,” says Recher. “We see many of our members for at least one meal daily. To be our members’ restaurant of choice, we must have a wide range of offerings. Pizza is universally recognizable and can swing casual or upscale. It’s a smart investment that can add a lot of value.”
Creativity at the Forefront
Pizza extends to Quail’s take-and-bake offerings and owns a spot on the a la carte specials menu with an ever-changing “pizza of the week.”
“I’m a purist regarding toppings,” admits Recher. “I want Italian pepperoni and homemade meatballs. I’m not interested in novelty pizzas—but I recognize our members are.”
Most recently, Quail put up a Maui pizza topped with roasted pineapple, jalapeño and specs of sausage. Much to Recher’s dismay, the members loved it.
Soon after Christine Hazel accepted the position of Executive Chef at Huntingdon Valley (Pa.) Country Club a year ago, a commercial brick oven was installed.
“We spent the first few weeks testing doughs and eating a lot of different pizzas,” says Hazel. “Fortunately, I was able to work with a chef from the oven’s manufacturer, which was very helpful.”
Huntingdon Valley’s pizzas are Neapolitan-style, like Quail’s, and cook in a quick 90 seconds.
“The pizza program makes us more approachable to the casual audience,” says Hazel. “It gives us another way to impress our members, too.”
Consistency is important, as is properly training the team. Now that both have been achieved, creativity is at the forefront.
“We’re using the oven to prepare octopus, clams casino and grilled vegetables,” says Hazel. She adds that the most important step in getting the program up and running was getting her hands dirty.
“Go to another club,” she says. “Do your research. Feel the dough. Work the oven. You’re not going to understand it until you work with it yourself; if you don’t understand it, you can’t teach it. I needed to ensure I knew everything there was to know about the brick oven to give my team the confidence to excel—and we are.”