As Executive Chef of Rochester Country Club, Jessalynn Schurhammer is focused on developing a relationship with members and mentoring her staff.
With nearly a year under her belt as Executive Chef of Rochester (Minn.) Country Club, Jessalynn Schurhammer says the relationships she is building with staff and members is what drives her through current COVID challenges and beyond.
Schurhammer began her career in the kitchen at 16 years old. She worked her way up the ranks to prep cook and then, eventually, to line cook. She attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, where she benefited from even more hands-on learning. That experience then led her to work in high-end restaurants, where she mastered speed and precision.
After working in three different fine-dining outlets, including Oceanaire, Cafe Lurcat and Meritage, Schurhammer was ready for a new challenge: country clubs. She transitioned into the club world, working first at Hastings (Minn.) Country Club and later as Sous Chef of Wayzata (Minn.) Country Club.
“Working in clubs felt like coming home,” says Schurhammer, who grew up on a golf course. “You don’t often have easy transitions in this field. In the kitchen, it’s hard going in and starting new, but the membership element continues to inspire me.”
With members dining at Rochester CC three-, four- and five times a week, Shurhammer has plenty of chances to get to know their collective likes and dislikes. She also enjoys working with the team of dedicated culinarians at Rochester CC who care as much about pleasing members as she does. Whether it’s creating a custom menu for a couple’s anniversary dinner or accommodating special dietary needs, Schurhammer’s philosophy is to go above and beyond.
Leading Her Way
Schurhammer finds it interesting how most people learn how to cook from their mothers, but the majority of restaurants are run by male chefs. Throughout her years in the industry, Schurhammer says she hasn’t felt like she was treated poorly or paid less because she was a woman. Being a chef requires commitment and hard work and she doesn’t let any potential bias affect her.
One thing that draws her to the industry is the competitiveness and being able to constantly better herself. She says she always needs to be at the top of her game and be able to adjust to the environment.
“It’s one thing to have the skill to do it, but I want to challenge myself to do it as fast as I can and still get it done right,” she says.
High-end, fresh food that tastes good without being too over-the-top is Schurhammer’s goal. She tries to avoid fads and cookie cutter style ways, too. “I try to stay true to the ingredients and let them speak for themselves,” she adds.
Recently she hired a female sous chef and looks forward to mentoring her and helping her grow, while also realizing the value of confidence and commitment. “If you’re confident in yourself, it comes out in your work,” says Schurhammer. “And your work should speak for itself.”