Southern Hills CC’s Executive Chef, Jonathan Moosmiller, is now just one of 69 Certified Master Chefs in the world.
Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., has as rich a golf history as any club in America. Since its founding in 1935, Southern Hills has hosted four PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens, as well as many tour and amateur events. The land where the club was built was donated by Waite Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum.
As detailed in a C&RB cover story in June 2007 (“The Bold New Approach at Southern Hills CC”), the club, which will celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, has been set up through the years for much more than great golf. And its strong reputation as one of the Southwest’s premier dining locations has been boosted in recent years under the leadership of Executive Chef Jonathan Moosmiller, who came to Southern Hills in 2012.
Jonathan Moosmiller, CMC
Current Position: Executive Chef, Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Okla. (2012-Present)
• Executive Chef, Genesee Valley Club, Rochester, N.Y. (2010-2012)
• Executive Sous Chef, Chef d’Cuisine, Garde Manger Chef, Banquet Chef, Westchester Country Club, Rye, N.Y. (2003-2010)
Education: A.S., Culinary Arts, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I. (1998)
Certification: American Culinary Federation, Certified Master Chef (2014)
Near the end of 2014, it was announced that Chef Moosmiller had become a Certified Master Chef, making him one of only 69 CMCs in the world. In the midst of the euphoria over that achievement, not to mention another busy holiday season, Jonathan was kind enough to share his thoughts on the value of the CMC experience, along with other insights on how he and his staff strive to build on Southern Hills’ great legacy.
C&RB: Chef, congratulations on passing the Certified Master Chef exam. What a huge accomplishment! In what ways do you think it will impact your career going forward?
Moosmiller: Just going through the process of the exam has made me a better chef than I was a year ago, and I feel it will continue to push me to be better every day, not only with cooking, but also in the way that I lead and develop my team, and most importantly how I help to develop the next generation of cooks coming up the ranks.
C&RB: How did you go about preparing for what I can only assume was the most grueling nine days of your career?
Moosmiller: I simply cooked as much as I could every day and imagined it was for the test. I built a schedule around all of the different areas I felt I needed to cover, and spent time researching each area and cooking as many dishes as I could.
It was a great learning experience not only for me, but for my team as well. We just built it into everything we did every day at the club. Many of the dishes were used as specials and written into party menus, or just cooked for the staff, to try and provide feedback.
C&RB: What was the most difficult part of the exam?
Moosmiller: Keeping your mental stability. You go through many different highs and lows during the process, which can make it difficult to keep your mind focused and sharp. Staying focused all the way through the exam is a necessity, and it keeps getting more difficult as you progress through the week and fatigue begins to set in.
C&RB: When you arrived at Southern Hills, you spent a great deal of time in the banquet area, to modernize the offerings. What did you do to reinvent that department?
Moosmiller: In our banquet kitchen, as in any kitchen, the main focus is consistency. If the product is not consistent from start to finish and from event to event, the customers—or in our case, the membership—will not be satisfied with their experience.
This was the main focus when I began improving our banquet operation. Once we established a solid foundation, we were able to improve on what we were doing. This philosophy is the same in all of our kitchens: ”How can we do it better than yesterday?”
C&RB: You have extensive experience in a la carte dining from your time at the Genesee Valley Club and Westchester Country Club. What is your philosophy regarding the frequency of changes to seasonal menus?
Moosmiller: We offer a total of approximately 60 menu items between our three restaurants, and we change approximately 75% of each menu four times a year. This allows us to provide the best products during peak times of availability. We also offer four to five specials daily, which allows us to feature super-seasonal products, as well as products from our own gardens.
C&RB: In your mind, what are the key elements to getting all of the culinary staff on the same page and working towards the one common goal?
Moosmiller: Having a goal that everyone can easily relate to and understand is the beginning of the process. Here at the club, we talk about providing “the Southern Hills experience.” Everything we do can be related back to that one goal. Whether you work in the kitchen, golf operations, tennis, fitness or security, it doesn’t matter—it all relates to that one common goal.
We use this approach every day in the kitchen, to evaluate how we are doing and to spark new ideas for ways to improve our program. We also use it for orientation of new employees, to give them an idea of what type of environment they will be working in, and what will be expected.
It’s a powerful tool to keep everyone moving in the right direction when you walk around the club and speak not only to employees, but members as well, and ask them about “the Southern Hills experience” and then see how it relates to how everyone performs every day.