Competition has always been important to Robert Meitzer, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef of Forest Lake Club (Columbia, S.C.) and one of the 2022 Club + Resort Chefs of the Year.
In high school, he competed in small, locally judged culinary competitions. Through these, he met a chef who offered him an American Culinary Federation (ACF) apprenticeship at a large hotel in Denver. This is where his career began.
Meitzer worked at the hotel for three years in every capacity, from banquets to fine dining. When he left, he went to the Beacon Grill, a nearby fine-dining steakhouse. After only four months, Meitzer was promoted to Executive Chef. He was only 21 years old.
“Everything we did was from scratch, and we were winning tons of awards, but the workload wasn’t sustainable,” says Meitzer. “When I left that job, I almost left the industry.”
Fortunately, there was an opening in The Centennial Room, a fine-dining restaurant in Denver’s Hyatt Regency. Meitzer excelled in this role and went on to work at The Brown Palace Hotel for another two years after the Hyatt.
During this time, he got back to competing. At one of the events, he was approached by the Dean of the Art Institute of Colorado, who invited him to teach at the school.
“I always joke that my first day of college was when I went to teach it,” Meitzer says. “I knew how to cook. I just didn’t know how to teach, but that was exactly what they were looking for.”
He offered a more practical approach to students based on real-world experience. After two years with the Art Institute, Meitzer went on to teach at Johnson & Wales and was sent to the school’s Miami, Charleston and Singapore campuses.
“It was rewarding to see all parts of the world while watching my students go on to succeed—but I wanted to do more,” says Meitzer.
He left teaching and took over as Food and Beverage Director and Executive Chef of Red Rocks Country Club (Morrison, Colo.). He managed the front- and back-of-house operations for five years and established the club’s 1.5-acre culinary garden.
After Red Rocks, he served as Executive Chef at Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club in Cashiers, N.C., for four years, then in the same role at Windsor Club in Vero Beach, Fla., for three more years. He took over at Forest Lake Club in Columbia, S.C., in 2020.
“The pandemic hit Florida hard, and I was ready for a less seasonal operation after Mountaintop and Windsor,” says Meitzer. “Forest Lake is a wonderful club with a strong membership supporting our culinary operation and team. I’m focused on improving the quality of my club and developing the cooks on my staff to become future chefs.
“Being named one of the 2022 Club + Resort Chefs of the year was extremely validating for me and the career I’ve built,” says Meitzer. “It was an honor to compete in front of my peers, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity.”