Chad Myers, Executive Chef of Dubuque (Iowa) G&CC came home from the 2017 Chef to Chef Conference inspired and reenergized.
So it has been a couple weeks since the ninth annual Chef to Chef Conference in Atlanta. There’s so much information swirling around my brain. It’s hard to process it all! I have to thank all of the planners and presenters at the conference. It was an inspirational three days that I feel privileged to have been a part of.
I like the fact that even though my club is different than some of the other properties represented at the Conference, we were all on the same playing field. We all have the same trials and tribulations. And the Conference gave us a chance to learn about what has worked for another chef at another club and apply it to our own much like we take a dish or technique from a chef and give it a twist.
As much knowledge as there was to gain at the Conference, I think that the personal side was worth its weight in gold. The relationships that I formed are very valuable in moving forward and becoming a better chef. I did enough homework to realize that some of the people I interacted with were some heavy hitters in this industry.
I actually had moments where I asked myself, “How did I get here? How did I get to a point in my career where I’m in a room full of people who are way more talented and way more charismatic than me, but welcome me into a conversation about club politics, or whatever?”
I remember when I decided to go to culinary school. I had gotten a job in a kitchen and had a natural talent for it. My mom had passed a few years earlier, and just like most moms, she was the best cook ever. I wanted to learn how to make what she made. I wanted to cook.
Fast forward 13 years and I still love to cook. But combining that with a new sense of desire to be great at it, and the desire to teach myself how to be a great Executive Chef without having worked for a mentor, but just being able to interact with other people’s mentor feeds my desire to learn.
The information I received at Chef to Chef was abundant. But some of the most important information that resonated with me was:
- Commitment to excellence at all times is a discipline that goes beyond ordinary
- Excellence requires each individual to step out of their comfort zones
- If you want to get something done, figure out the plan, provide reasons why the plan will work, and then work hard to achieve it. No excuses!
- The program is only as good as the energy applied.
- To be a leader you have to establish a clear vision, share that vision, and provide information, knowledge and methods to realize it.
This is just a snapshot of the things that keeps running through my head. And although it may seem like common sense, sometimes it’s inspiring to hear it from someone else. Just like a coach getting their team ready for the big game, the people that I interacted with have helped me recharge and prepare for my third season as an Executive Chef.
I will work harder to practice the principles that other successful club chefs use in their clubs.
Some great advice I was given was when something bothers you and can’t stop dwelling on it, you have to just say “Okra.” I was told to imagine a piece of okra on your shoulder. It’s ugly, it’s not that great, and it’s pretty slimy. Just let it slide off your shoulders. Okra!
And now the energy that I have is great. I’m excited about this season. I can’t wait to use tin foil cups to make banquet service more efficient. I can’t wait to find someone handy to try to create some buffet displays that are out of this world. And it didn’t take me long to create a version of a beet salad that I ate at a local restaurant called Gunshow, which was an amazing experience as well.
The salad was pretty simple, but I wondered how I could create more textures and flavors using pretty much the same ingredients. So I roasted some beets, pickled some beets, and made a puree out of beets to turn it into an espuma. I then fried some toasted barley risotto for texture. I added green apple and shaved fennel because they’re buddies with beets. I made an apple butter to enhance the apple flavor. I charred some grapefruit and orange, which is in the vinaigrette. I also made buttermilk curd and onion ash.
My goal was just to create lots of flavors textures and colors, and honestly, I think this dish represents my trip to Atlanta so well. Maybe I should have used a little more restraint, but to me it tells my story of enthusiasm and love for what I do.
See you next year in Seattle!!!