Whether it’s beehives, maple syrup or a chef’s garden, more club chefs are making better use of their properties, and their team members, as they grow and source on-site ingredients.
The culinary team and the course-and-grounds department may seem like unlikely allies. But club chefs who are eager to source unique and high-quality ingredients from their properties are reaching out to the course superintendents and horticulturists on their clubs’ staffs to form exciting new partnerships. Together, these experts are coming together to plant chef’s gardens, set up beehives, and tap maple trees.
“We don’t just have access to hundreds of acres right outside our back door—we also work alongside some of the most knowledgeable superintendents and horticulturists in the industry,” says Jonathan P. Moosmiller, CMC, Director of Food & Beverage at Southern Hills Country Club (SHCC) in Tulsa, Okla.
Breaking Down Silos
About three years ago, Moosmiller and his team planted a chef’s garden to the side of one of the fairways on SHCC’s West Nine golf course. The kitchen team planted, weeded and harvested all the crops, which included herbs, lettuces, peppers and squash.
“We did okay with it for about three years,” says Moosmiller. “But the problem was that when the garden needed the most work, we were the most busy in the kitchen. It was difficult to get out there regularly.”
When Russ Myers came on board as Southern Hills’ new Superintendent, he reached out to Moosmiller and offered to take ownership of the garden. “’We have the staff and the body of knowledge,’ he told me,” says Moosmiller. “It was a natural handoff.”
SHCC’s Horticulturist, Wilson Nease, took the baton and found a new 1,000-sq. ft. plot (pictured, below) that had basically been used as a leaf dump up to that point. The grounds department wanted to clean it up anyway, so a garden made sense for all.
“[Nease] and his crew mapped out the space and we offered input into what we would like to see planted,” says Moosmiller. The first year was filled with a lot of trial and error. “[Nease] would bring clippings of the different lettuces and plants to the kitchen, and we’d tell him what the ideal size and ripeness would be for our purposes,” Moosmiller says.
In season, SHCC’s garden now supplies about 90% of the herbs used in the kitchen. Squash, cucumbers, lettuces, peppers, okra and tomatoes are also doing well. Same goes for the blackberry bushes that yielded over 200 pounds of berries in their second year.
Taking the project one step further, Nease also set up six beehives by the garden and this year, the club harvested nearly 25 gallons of honey.
“[Nease] is super-passionate about what he does,” says Moosmiller. “He knows how to grow crops and how to prevent disease. He’s very open to collaborating, too.”
Ultimately, SHCC would like to expand the garden, so the club can create a type of Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for its members.
Stepping Outside the Kitchen
The Country Club (TCC) in Chestnut Hill, Mass., has been tapping maple trees for as long as Joseph M. Leonardi, CMC, MAT, Director of Culinary Operations, can remember. But a few years ago, the club embarked on a project to plant a garden. Shortly after, Leonardi suggested beehives.
“Our grounds department has helped with anything we’ve needed, no matter if we’re turning dirt or planting crops or starting seedlings,” says Leonardi. TCC also has its own greenhouse where Bruce Wenning, the club’s Horticulturist, grows a variety of plants and flowers from seedlings for the course.
“There is so much knowledge and depth of talent within the club,” Leonardi says. “When we suggested bees, the grounds department was all for it. They’ve supported us in every way we’ve asked.”
The dynamic between the two departments has evolved to the point where the grounds crew will now pop into the kitchen, just to see what Leonardi and his team are doing with the products. “It’s brought our departments much closer together,” he says. “We’re all invested in the success and outcome. Sometimes the guys will tell me how to cook a certain item they grew!”
Leonardi also uses the garden and beehives as teaching tools for his cooks and interns, so they can see the importance of going above and beyond for members.
“We always want the culinary experience to shine,” says Leonardi. “If we can produce something on property and pull in other stakeholders from within the team to deliver a truly unique experience for our members, it’s important that we do so, no matter if it’s honey, maple syrup or herbs and vegetables.”