Many clubs are now growing more of the fresh ingredients they need just steps from their kitchen doors.
Members want to know where their food comes from—and they want it to be nearby.
Happy to oblige, a growing number of club and resort chefs are rolling up their sleeves and digging in the dirt just outside their kitchens.
“Local sourcing has been all the rage for the past decade,” says Nicandro Poccia, Executive Chef at Spring Mill Country Club, Warminster, Pa., where a large culinary garden now produces everything from broccoli, peppers and lettuce to cabbage, kale and tomatoes. “Farm-to-table has become its own category.”
But hyperlocal sourcing—as in culinary gardens like the one at Spring Mill—is a newer trend that has been gaining ground, especially in the club market. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot culinary forecast, hyperlocal sourcing was the sixth hottest trend this year [see below].
|Top 10 Food Trends for 2014
Source: National Restaurant Association
“We built our garden long before it was ‘cool’ to have one,” says Poccia, who works with Steve Wyremski, Spring Mill’s Landscape Horticulturist, to care for the nearly 30-year-old green space. “As this whole buying-local thing has become more and more popular, I can’t help but laugh. We’ve been growing our own produce organically—and it’s been just one tee away [from the kitchen]—for decades.”
With plenty of on-site access to expertise in landscaping, agronomy and horticulture—both through golf course superintendents and others on the staff, as well as within their membership base—more and more club properties are planting chef’s gardens like the one at Spring Mill.
Joe Kukowski, Executive Chef at Tripoli Country Club, Milwaukee, Wis., is a perfect example. Kukowski recently planted a chef’s garden in a plot of land just outside the club’s kitchen.
“It’s not extensive yet,” says Kukowski, who works with Tripoli’s Superintendent on planning, planting, watering and harvesting. “We planted a young cherry tree, as well as some herbs and tomatoes, this year. Next year, we’re hoping to expand.”
Red Rocks Country Club, Morrison, Colo., planted its culinary garden in the summer of 2011 (see “From Farm to Table,” C&RB, May 2012). It features a picturesque deck and pergola with space for outdoor dining.
“It has evolved from a culinary garden that exclusively served the club’s kitchen to a garden now that combines the club’s needs and the members’ needs,” says General Manager Mark Condon. “This past year we created 70 member plots [see photo, below]. The garden became a community center for our membership. They gathered every Monday to feed and weed.
“Next year we anticipate having over 100 member plots,” Condon adds. “The garden is becoming ‘a club within the club,’ with increased member leadership and a member subcommittee to oversee the area.”
Members at Spring Mill and Tripoli are equally enthused with their clubs’ gardens, though neither club has the same level of member participation yet as Red Rocks.
“Members appreciate the difference in taste,” says Kukowski, who plans to harvest and dry herbs, as well as infuse oils with them. “Our garden dictates our menus and specials. Our goal is to always highlight the things we grow.”
Like Kukowski, Poccia also harvests, dries, preserves and freezes homegrown herbs and produce, so Spring Mill’s garden can continue to contribute year-round.
“Our menus reflect the variety of vegetables we grow, and our membership appreciates the freshness that only our garden can provide,” says Poccia.
With a plot that measures nearly 40,000 square feet, Spring Mill plants new crops every week or so, to ensure that the kitchen has a constant stream of ripe produce to feature.
“The garden helps us increase the quality of our menu while also providing opportunities for members to spend time with people with like interests,” says Red Rocks’ Condon. “It has become a great member recruitment and retention tool.”