Executive Chef Adam Minicucci draws on lessons learned from his mentors as he imparts skills and values to his team at The Country Club of North Carolina.
The Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC), established in 1963, is surrounded by 400 luxury homes and has 950 members, 800 of whom are golf members. CCNC is less than a mile away from The Village of Pinehurst, home to the fabled #2 course at Pinehurst Resort.
At the helm in CCNC’s kitchen is Executive Chef Adam Minicucci, one of the club industry’s new upstart talents. Chef Minicucci has trained with a number of outstanding chefs at several of America’s top clubs, but his most impressive trait isn’t his outstanding culinary talent—it is his appreciation for those chefs who taught him his craft, as well as for how the CCNC leadership gave him a tremendous opportunity.
Current Position: Executive Chef, The Country Club of North Carolina, Pinehurst, N.C. (2014-Present)
Honors and Affiliations:
Minicucci was kind enough to share his thoughts on how he intends to continue to raise the bar at CCNC, and also on how he conceived and hosted a special “Reunion Dinner” at the club, featuring some of the chefs who helped him get to where he is today.
C&RB: Chef, what was the inspiration for the “chef reunion dinner” that you recently had at CCNC?
Minicucci: The inspiration came threefold. First, I wanted to bring a culinary experience to my membership that they have never had here in the past. Every year we are able to host about six well-received Chef’s Table dinners, where members enjoy a fine-dining experience right in our kitchen. I thought this would be a good opportunity to create another fine-dining experience for our members to enjoy.
Second, to be completely honest, I wanted the chance to cook one more time with three of the chefs who had helped me so much in my career. We’ve all worked together in the past and since then have moved on to different properties. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to “get the band back together.”
(The chefs who were invited to participate in the “Reunion Dinner” included Brandon Fisher, Sous Chef of The Mar-a-Lago Club, Palm Beach, Fla.; Robert Fasce, Executive Chef of Genesee Valley Club, Rochester, N.Y., and Tammy Fuchs, CEPC, ACE, Executive Pastry Chef, Genesee Valley Club.)
Last, and most importantly, it was for my employees. Having three chefs of that caliber working with the staff for two days was priceless. Even now, weeks later, there is still a buzz in the kitchen.
C&RB: Can you give us some details on how the evening went? How did the membership receive it? Did you speak? How many courses? How did you divide up the responsibilities as you engineered the menu? How did you market the event?
Minicucci: It went great! As I mentioned, we have never had an event like this here in the past, so this was something totally new for the members and they loved it. They still grab me when I’m in the dining room to tell me how much fun it was and how impressed they were with the entire evening.
Before the event, a few members expressed to me that one of the things they enjoy about our chef-table dinners is the interaction with me, the chef, throughout the meal. They were afraid that this event would lack that experience. But before the meal, I introduced each of the chefs and talked a little bit about their culinary backgrounds, as well as how we all met and worked together in the past.
The meal consisted of five courses and an amuse-bouche. To compose the menu, we each wrote a course. After each course was served, we separately went out to the dining room to explain our dishes, as well as visiting each table at the end of the evening. This more than provided the interaction that the members were looking for.
The day before the event, I had the entire staff come in for a casual day of prep. After the initial introductions between the staff and the chefs, we all had breakfast together, followed by a team meeting, and then we broke off into teams to cook. We created four teams, all led by one chef. This gave me an opportunity to match up my staff with the chef I felt they would benefit learning from the most.
Marketing the event was really no different than any others. We used e-mails, our website and our newsletter, but most of all by word of mouth.
C&RB: When I have hosted guest-chef events, my culinary team benefited most from the experience. Did you find the same thing happened with your group?
Minicucci: Absolutely! From the weeks leading to the event right up until today, you can still feel the impact in the kitchen. It’s been a great experience for me as well.
The day after the event, my Sous Chef and line cooks were already incorporating new techniques that they had learned into their daily specials and parading them around for everyone to see and taste. I can’t put into words how it makes me feel to see my staff so passionate about what they do. Truly inspiring!
C&RB: Chef, as the Reunion Dinner showed, you’ve always felt a responsibility to carry on the legacy of the chefs that you have succeeded. Now that you have your own gig that feels like home, what is your plan in this regard in the years ahead at CCNC?
Minicucci: The plan is simple: to help create a culinary legacy here at The Country Club of North Carolina for cooks and chefs to carry on after me.
I’ve been extremely lucky and honored to have worked at some of the most well-regarded private clubs in the country throughout my career, but I haven’t necessarily played a large part in making them what they are today.
At The Country Club of North Carolina, I feel I have an opportunity to do just that. With my staff being so eager to learn and having a desire to improve on a daily basis, I truly believe as a team we will be able to create something very special here.
C&RB: We talk a lot about mentoring in the true sense of the word, with sound lessons and constant follow-through. You have been the recipient, and now you are the one giving guidance. How important would you say it is for young chefs to seek out mentors and for us to give back as chefs and help those who are receptive to growing fundamentally?
Minicucci: I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most important, if not the most important, thing that anyone can do when starting off in this career. Going to culinary school is important—but let’s face it, you learn a majority of what makes you a successful chef on the job.
I was very lucky to have met my mentor in the earlier stages of my career. He not only taught me the obvious things, like proper cooking techniques and sanitation, but more importantly about key values such as pride, devotion and integrity. These are lessons you can only learn from a great mentor. I will never be able to repay him for all that he has done to help guide and propel my career, but I do feel an obligation to pass it on to the next generation of chefs.
C&RB: You were once offered a sous chef position and were unsure about taking a job with the same title. Your dad said, “Can you learn from him?” Young chefs have the tendency to jump at an opportunity for the title or the compensation. How good was your father’s advice?
Minicucci: It was probably the best career advice I’ve ever received. When asked the question, “What is the best advice you can give someone starting in the culinary field?” my response is always, “Don’t chase the dollar.” That’s a very hard decision to make, though. Money is important and the titles are sometimes nice—but again, learning the right way from the best people possible is so valuable to greater future success.