The 2023 Chef to Chef Conference is underway in Miami (March 5-7) at the InterContinental Hotel, with networking events and education sessions from some of the industry’s top club culinary leaders, including Michael Matarazzo, CEC, Executive Chef of Farmington Country Club and Chef to Chef Conference coordinator, who got attendees off to a good start Monday with his Morning Mindset session.
“Every day is a do-over,” says Matarazzo, “and every morning is an opportunity to start with renewed positivity and perspective.” During his session, Matarazzo shared his strategies for incorporating mindset calibration and self-awareness into a morning routine.
Rewriting the Pairing Playbook + Demo
In the first official session of the day, Elisha Cicerone, CCM, Certified Sommelier, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Charlotte City Club, and Cullasaja Club Executive Chef Scott Craig, WCMC, challenged chefs to look at pairings from a fresh perspective. They dove into the secrets and science behind what makes a perfect pairing and shared strategies for crafting deliberate and memorable menus that allow the food and drink to enhance the flavor of the other.
Cicerone spoke about an all-female winemaker dinner that she suggested to Craig and how the two worked together, despite their differences, to put on a successful event for members.
In her professional relationships at clubs and with chefs, says Cicerone, “I always valued a true partnership. … You have to make sure you’re on the same page with your philosophy for the food-and-beverage program.”
Bringing Pastry In-House
Member demand for house-made breads, desserts and other baked goods is soaring, but most culinary teams are limited in time and ability.
The first step, says Farmington Country Club Executive Pastry Chef Mellisa Root, is to “recognize the undeniable truth that you need to invest in a talented and seasoned pastry chef.”
Root made a case for clubs to consider hiring a skilled pastry chef who can develop a dynamic and expansive pastry program catered to an operation’s unique needs. She revealed the cost and financial gains when clubs invest in pastry and explain how this investment enhances the member and guest experience while contributing to the bottom line.
“Pastry is like love,” says Root. “It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
Specialty Banquet Stations + Demo
Executive Chef Andrew Haapala shared techniques and tricks he uses to provide the membership of The Country Club of Virginia with upscale banquet experiences. His session covered menu creation and presentation for events ranging from wine tastings to board dinners. Haapala also delved into station set-up, equipment choices and safe food storage to ensure events are beautiful and run smoothly.
Advocating for Culinary With Your General Manager/Board
When club chefs are part of the executive team and the house and food-and-beverage committees, it can significantly impact and benefit a club’s culinary operation. In this session, Keith Armstrong, CEC Chief Operating Officer of Greenwich Country Club, and J. Kevin Walker, CMC, AAC Former Executive Chef of Ansley Golf Club, discussed the importance of having the Executive Club Chef involved in club governance. They shared applicable techniques, tools and skills to help chefs elevate their operations from an executive level.
“The day to day is your job,” says Armstrong, “but to be a good leader, you have to be looking at the future.”
Starters that Steal the Spotlight + Demo
It’s the prelude to the meal, an introduction to the chef, and a taste of what’s to come. Starters, hors d’oeuvres and small plates play an essential role in creating the kind of dining experience that keeps members coming back. Scott Ryan, CEC, AAC Executive Chef of The Country Club demoed several of his standout dishes, showcasing how they are creative yet approachable, whimsical yet sophisticated and inspiring and distinct.
Navigating the Relationships Between Front and Back of House
Developing and maintaining relationships is a tricky task for management in any industry, let alone in an environment as intense as a club kitchen and dining room. Establishing strong communication procedures, regularly engaging with staff, and adjusting the organizational approach can play a part in avoiding unnecessary or longstanding friction. In this session, Michael Meuse Executive Chef of Sawgrass Country Club, and Perry Kenney, CCM, Assistant General Manager of Sawgrass Country Club shared strategies for creating harmonious and synchronous relationships between front- and back-of-house staff.
A Taste of Miami
After Monday’s sessions, attendees were treated to an exclusive event at Time Out Market Miami, the city’s premier culinary destination, featuring 17,000 square feet of the city’s top chefs, most-talked-about restaurants and best bars.
This event was included in Chef to Chef registration. From 4:30 to 7:30 pm, conference attendees sipped, sampled and socialized inside this unique, curated food hall—everything you want to eat, drink and see in Miami, all under one roof. Vendors included Baklava Bakery, a family-owned, Lebanese pastry shop; Chick’n Jones, a chef-driven fried chicken shop; and The Rouge Panda, a fully plant-based Chinese eatery by the culinary innovators from Momofuku and Eleven Madison Park.
#CheftoChef2023 continues Tuesday, March 7, with sessions on plant-based cuisine, menu-writing designed around budgets, using competition to motivate culinarians and more.