One constant throughout my career has been a deliberate, determined drive to improve my skills, receive additional education and connect with my peers.
I have always believed a “perfect job” exists for each of us, even if we haven’t found it yet. My goal is to ensure that I face no competition when applying for that job when it presents itself. I want this for each of my sous chefs and apprentices. I tell them, “There is no time for complacency. There will always be someone more eager, ready to receive the opportunities you hope to achieve.”
In my ongoing pursuit of professional betterment, one of the most important elements of continuing education for me has been attending conferences. These experiences serve as a hub of culinary creativity and present me with an opportunity for networking, learning, and showcasing talent (see photo, above).
Attending conferences is a strategic investment in maintaining a cutting-edge reputation—exposure to industry leaders bolsters professional credibility and positions chefs as trailblazers in the field. Being a part of these gatherings underscores a commitment to excellence and a proactive approach to staying relevant.
Not All Conferences Are Built the Same
There are plenty of culinary conferences to choose from at various locations and price points. However, as a chef in the private club industry, nothing could make more sense to me than attending a conference explicitly geared towards “club and resort chefs.”
The survey-driven agenda is created annually, in large part, by chefs employed in our industry. We focus on issues we see in our clubs daily and expound upon the topics covered in Club + Resort Chef magazine that receive the most traction. The goal is to create focused, relevant, club-oriented content utilizing the industry’s brightest minds.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
At the heart of the significance of professional conferences lies the exposure to cutting-edge trends and techniques. These conferences function as a crucible of ideas in an industry where innovation is synonymous with success. Private club chefs gain invaluable insights into the latest culinary trends, ingredient innovations, and cooking methods, empowering them to infuse creativity into their menus. By staying abreast of these developments, chefs ensure they keep up with the times and lead the charge in setting new culinary standards.
One of the most frustrating experiences I had at conferences when I was younger involved attending what I believed to be an “educational” seminar on a cooking technique, only to find it was essentially a commercial for a brand that had misled me. I’m proud the Chef to Chef Conference doesn’t follow that model. Instead, sponsors offer pre-conference education sessions on Sunday afternoon before the conference kicks off. This approach empowers attendees to learn more about the brands and companies they are interested in. Meanwhile, the main stage is reserved exclusively for subject matter experts, ensuring a focus on learning and professional development without a sales agenda.
Improving your Network
Networking is another cornerstone of professional conferences, allowing chefs to connect with like-minded individuals. The club and resort industry benefits immensely from the collaborative spirit fostered at these events. Building a network opens doors to partnerships, collaborative menu creations, and shared expertise. Interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds broadens one’s perspective and creates a community that propels the industry forward.
I’m thankful to have built large email groups and text chains with chefs I met at Chef to Chef. From COVID procedures to staffing to construction projects, I’ve relied heavily on these groups of chefs who understand the daily challenges I face. From staffing a new team in recent years to hurricane relief and staff salary comps, I owe much to these networks of trusted peers.
With attendance continuing to climb annually, Chef to Chef represents North America’s largest gathering of club and resort culinary professionals—if not the world.
Authentic Culture and Cuisine
From New Orleans to Seattle, San Diego to Miami, Austin to Charlotte, no other conference immerses chefs in food-savvy locales like Chef to Chef does. Indigenous speakers, nights on the town, and meticulously planned meals throughout the conference provide us with education and familiarity with the region that we can then take home and fold into our repertoire for our members’ enjoyment.
Building a Better Resume
Certain conferences provide chefs a platform to display their skills to a broader audience. Engaging in events such as the Club + Resort Chef of the Year Competition, participating in demonstrations, or serving as a speaker enhances not only a chef’s prestige but also elevates the club’s reputation. These opportunities allow club chefs to stand out, drawing attention to the culinary excellence that distinguishes themselves and their establishment.
Investing in Success
Investing in conference attendance for chefs is a strategic choice for clubs aiming to improve their culinary operation and member satisfaction. This investment, which is not insignificant, enhances a club’s reputation and competitive edge.
Conferences like Chef to Chef serve as platforms for innovation and learning, empowering chefs with the latest culinary trends and techniques to elevate the dining experience. This positions the club as a culinary leader and enhances its appeal. Furthermore, the networking opportunities at these events connect chefs with a wider culinary community, fostering inspiration and collaboration.
Ultimately, this investment signifies a commitment to excellence and innovation, leading to greater member retention and a distinguished reputation in the culinary world. In other words, it’s money well spent.