Executive Chef Bob Burns, CEC, shares how Austin CC reinvents classic dishes in familiar, upscale ways.
Q: How long have you been at Austin (Texas) Country Club?
A: I’ve been here for seven years, but I’ve been in private clubs for 37 years. I’ve been an executive chef for 35 years.
Q: What was F&B like when you first started at Austin CC?
A: Consistency was lacking. They were also losing $700,000 annually.
Q: How and why has it changed?
A: Short and long term goals were immediately established. We’ve worked hard to not only meet these goals, but to exceed them. Restaurant and banquet menus were changed. We began purchasing better quality products and ingredients. Equipment was updated. Staff was better trained. Today, we receive many compliments and we believe consistency has been the key to our success. We work extremely hard to provide that for our members. They’ve responded positively, too. As of now we budgeted to make $300,000 dollars from banquets due to all the improvements made by front and back of the house.
Today, we receive many compliments and we believe consistency has been the key to our success. We work extremely hard to provide that for our members. They’ve responded positively, too. As of now, we budgeted to make $300,000 dollars from banquets due to all the improvements made by front and back of the house.
Q: How does f&b tie into the greater goals of the club?
A: Great clubs need great food. It’s as important as a golf course—if not more so.
Q: Tell me about the F&B operation at your property.
A: There are three main dining areas. The family area is our Terrace and there’s outside seating there. Adults-only dining is available in Harvey’s dining room. Our Penick room is for men only. Families make up most of our business so the Terrace is used most often. Harvey’s is smaller, but it can be very busy, too. Penick is mainly lunch, but we occasionally have large groups at night and, of course, it’s used for socializing during golf events.
Q: What food cost % do you run?
A: Overall, we run 37%. (We run 45% in a la carte and 27% in banquets.)
Q: What is the annual F&B revenue at your property?
A: $3.25 Million
Q: Tell me about your culinary style.
A: I really love to learn about other cultures and their food traditions. This is reflected in what I love to cook. It’s familiar and comforting, but still upscale and surprising.
Q: Where does upscale comfort food fit into your menu?
A: Everywhere, really. We serve it on our regular menu, in buffets, during brunches, for banquets, and especially on holiday menus.
Q: How have you seen comfort foods evolve?
A: Members want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it. I grew up gardening, hunting and forging for wild ingredients, so this is already a big part of how I approach ingredients and cuisine. At Austin CC, we offer a farm-to-club menu and we buy directly from growers and harvesters as much as possible.
Q: What are some of your most popular upscale comfort dishes?
A: Tacos, chicken fried steak, salads, southern cooking, and wild game.
Q: How do you reinvent classics to be more modern?
A: We look at plate presentation and ingredients. We also modify for allergens or health concerns like sodium, fat or calories.
Q: What are some important things to consider when creating or recreating an upscale comfort dish?
A: Always remember what the member’s expectations or memories of the dish might be. Then ask yourself: Will my interpretation be well received? Will it taste like they remember?
Q: What value do upscale comfort dishes bring to your operation and the menu?
A: They allow us to tell a story on the plate that touches the heart of our members. That’s always a good thing.