When I began to conceive the “Chef to Chef ” interview for this issue, I realized that I have a few things in common with Steven Haverson, Executive Chef at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Our respective clubs have hosted the last two U.S. Amateur Championships (Winged Foot in 2004, Merion in ’05). Bobby Jones played a huge role in shaping the history of both of our clubs ( Jones won the Amateur at Merion in 1924 and again in 1930 to complete his legendary “Grand Slam”; he also won a U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 1929 by an incredible 23 strokes). And finally, on a more personal level, I am very familiar with Winged Foot, not only from visiting Chef Steven when he was hosting the Amateur two years ago, but also from having spent 10 days there when the club hosted the PGA Championship in 1997.
That week is permanently etched in my mind because it was the hardest I have ever worked in my life. As a corporate chalet chef working major golf events for New York-based Restaurant Associates, I can honestly say that the crowds at Winged Foot that year were the largest I had ever encountered. It was an incredible week culminated by a huge electrical storm, rain delays, and Davis Love III putting out on 18 with a rainbow overhead, for his first and only major championship.
|Steven Haverson, Executive Chef|
Chef Steven will be facing a similarly daunting task this year, when the U.S. Open comes to Winged Foot, and even larger crowds are expected. But he is more than up to the challenge, having come to the club in 2000 with a wealth of education and experience from not only the New York metropolitan area, but around the world. The reason I stress education is that Steven attended Cordon Bleu Ecole Du Cuisine in Paris, earned a BA in Economics from Bridgeport University in Connecticut, and also studied language in France and Israel (he is fluent in both French and Spanish).
Before coming to Winged Foot, Chef Steven worked as Executive Chef at The Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, Conn., and at the Jockey Club at The Ritz Carlton in Manhattan. In the midst of what is an incredibly busy period for him, he was still kind enough to spend some time with Club & Resort Business to describe his club’s preparations for their latest major tournament event.
Q Chef, besides the obvious differences in the size of the crowds and the fact that you have a major vendor catering onsite, how are the clubhouse operations different when hosting a U. S. Amateur, versus hosting a U.S.Open?
A The primary difference is that during the U.S. Amateur Championship we took responsibility for the entire week’s food and beverage program. We set up an auxiliary kitchen for all potential concessions, volunteers, media, USGA staff, players and players’ families, as well as our own members. The sheer magnitude of the U.S. Open necessitates a different arrangement. Our kitchen will be preparing breakfast and lunch for players and Winged Foot members. With the potential to have 40,000 outside visitors each day, a caterer was hired to deal with that daily food requirement, as well as the corporate tents and any other food needs. Our club could never sustain that kind of support.
Q Do you present concepts to the USGA for their approval, or do they give you specific directives for what they would like to see during Championship week?
A At this point, my dealings with the USGA have been limited to where I would locate additional refrigerated trucks for the U.S. Open week. The breakfast and lunch menus for the clubhouse, be they à la carte or buffet, are approved by the General Manager (rather than the USGA), because they are primarily for members. I have also placed calls to the USGA to find out if any players have special food requirements; we are certainly willing to service any special requests from the players and provide all the food comforts that will contribute to their enjoyment of their time at Winged Foot.
Q Steven, I think it would be interesting to hear how your clubhouse, which dates back to 1923 (see photo above), is used during an event like the Open. Can you describe who will be using the clubhouse, and how you will accommodate them in what will undoubtedly prove to be too small a space?
A Our members will purchase special tickets and be catered to in the clubhouse for breakfast, lunch, cocktails and late-afternoon snacks. The players will be taken care of as well. At lunch they’ll be offered the same à la carte menu as our members, but I don’t expect them to have much for breakfast. Most will eat a light breakfast, or have something before they arrive at the club. We will have both hot and cold breakfast items available, though. It’s my understanding that the players are very focused on their game and will only briefly come into the clubhouse to eat before returning back to the practice areas.
Q Tell us a little bit about staffing, and where you will recruit temporary help.
A Our regular staff will be working to the max, with staff members from some other areas of the club participating in utility and food prep to the best of their abilities. We will be using caddies, pool personnel and snack bar workers that will not be in their regular positions that week. I started very early in the year to offer the opportunity to work in the kitchen to some culinary graduates, as well as friends and family of present staff. There will be no volunteers, though—everyone will be paid.
Q What about your plans regarding specific culinary offerings during the week.Will you be offering any of your many signature Winged Foot menu items?
A Our menus will be based on many of our present Winged Foot favorites. We are not responsible for serving dinner—the players make their own arrangements offsite, and members have not requested it so far—so our highlights will surface primarily through à la carte and buffet offerings. We will be serving our Remington sandwich, which is a spice-rubbed breast of free-range chicken with homemade coleslaw and Russian dressing. Another Winged Foot favorite is our Maryland crabcake sandwich. It’s served on a toasted brioche roll with radish sprouts and Dijon mustard sauce. We will also be serving two of our signature soups: cold gazpacho and lentil. If the weather is warm during the Open, the gazpacho will be a refreshing option. Our buffets will include a variety of American, Asian, French and international dishes, with emphasis on freshness and simplicity. We’ll showcase fresh fish and seafood. We will also have one entrée based on white meat—usually chicken—one pasta, one or two red meats including a carving station, and a secondary starch like rice, couscous, risotto or potatoes. We will also highlight some of our signature buffet items like our sushi tuna with sesame seaweed salad and Asian dipping sauce. We also do a large Cobb salad served on a mirror, in addition to other salads.
Q How does the U.S.Open affect you as a chef in what would otherwise be a year committed to members and guests?
A Upon starting my position at Winged Foot seven years ago, I found myself in a mecca of golf—a sport I didn’t play at the time. I’ve always been a sports enthusiast, though, so I understood that golf has four major tournaments and that Winged Foot has historically hosted both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, in addition to the U.S. Amateur. When I learned that I would be here during the Open, I felt honored to be at the club during one of the most prestigious events in the golf world, let alone the entire sports world. Ultimately, I realize that there will
be only one winner when the tournament ends on Sunday—but I believe that all of my staff and everyone at Winged Foot will prove to be winners by hosting this event.
Jerry Schreck is a member of the Club & Resort Business Editorial Advisory Board and writes frequently for C&RB on club-specific culinary topics. Have a topic you’d like to see Jerry address in a future issue? A question about a specific F&B challenge you’re facing at your club? Or would you just like to invite Jerry to visit your club sometime to exchange ideas? Write to him at [email protected]