As Eva Barrios, CEC, Executive Chef of Royal Oaks CC, continues to create new programs to engage members, she is also honing her pastry skills with speciality cakes.
As COVID-19 continues to affect our lives here at Royal Oaks Country Club (Houston, Texas). We are working hard to roll with the changes and continue innovating. We were quick to adapt when the virus put our city on lockdown, and we haven’t stopped since. I always believe there is something positive in every situation and our need to adapt and change has led us to branch out of the ‘norm’ and try things we never would have otherwise.
While the safety and health procedures of our kitchen have always been important, we’ve made it the top focus in order to ensure that our staff and members are taken care. The pandemic has hit our industry hard and I am thankful every day for the ability to continue to do what I love. It is imperative to keep working and making everyone as safe as possible to be able to provide service to our members. That’s why we’re here.
With the ability to host large events at the club on hold for now, our marketing team has worked very hard to put in place new club events that fall within the current safety guidelines. We have been able to offer special features such as Taco Tuesdays, Burger & Boozy Milkshake Drive Through, and “Closed on Sunday” Chicken Sandwich with its own special sauce. These events have been—and will continue to be—a huge hit and highlight for members that do not otherwise feel comfortable being out in public. Our members love it and we were able to increase our revenues on otherwise slower nights.
We are still offering family to-go packages, but have revised the packages from set themed menus to a “create your own” meal. The members have the opportunity to customize their package size (4 or 6 people), proteins, vegetables, and starches.
One other way we have encouraged our members to dine in or order to-go is through our Daily Specials offered at the Palm Grille (poolside kitchen) and the Bistro, our main dining venue. On Fridays we feature a more upscale special at dinner and on most weekends, we offer specials made for two which also makes ordering easy for members.
In addition to all of those new and unique food offerings, we are still able to host Zoom Bingo, an assortment of virtual classes such as painting and cooking; and small group experiences geared toward teens such as makeup and skincare tips, leisure volleyball, strength conditioning, movie nights by the pool and pizza making. My personal favorite upcoming Zoom course is a cooking class I will be hosting for the Ladies Association.
One of the most profound examples of branching out from ‘norm’ for me started back in March.
With a smaller staff than usual, we are all having to help out in other departments in order to serve our guests as best as possible. In March a member needed a cake for a birthday they were celebrating. I have some experience from working the pastry station while doing my ACF apprenticeship program so I offered to assist. I am not as knowledgeable as some of my fellow pastry chefs, but I do love creating pastries.
The first cake was a major hit, and as of right now, I am working on my fourth cake! It has been exciting to do something I don’t usually get to do as well as bring in some much needed revenue for the club. It is a little overwhelming since I’ve had to do a lot of troubleshooting through texting various pastry chef friends and pouring through online and printed resources, but it has been an exciting challenge. I am lucky to have a strong team that allows me to spend the time making the best cakes I can.
We are all learning and growing together. I know once our operations are at full capacity, I won’t have the time to spend on these special desserts so I am grateful for the opportunity. It is something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, but it is allowing me to hone my skills and learn some new things along the way.
You never know what new possibilities can come your way. Always be open-minded and try to see the positives in the situations around you. I believe that this is especially important as we navigate 2020.