To make or to buy? That is the question club and resort pastry teams face daily. Here’s how two chefs decide.
While pastry chefs may not necessarily liken themselves to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, they must ask themselves if it makes the most sense to purchase or bake certain products. Whether limited by the size of his or her staff, workspace or budget, each chef is faced with making certain choices that result in the best outcome for a club’s kitchen.
An Inside Job
At Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, N.J., pastry chef Nadelis Perez is fully committed to producing the majority of her own pastries, including her flourless chocolate cake, with créme anglaise and coffee ice cream (see below, recipe online). “We make at least 70 percent of the pastry products and desserts in-house,” she says. “Making our own pastries creates a personal and meaningful experience for our guests and members. We can customize dishes or accomodate special dietary needs by making dishes in-house.”
After honing her culinary skills at The Acorn Club in Philadelphia for four-and-a-half years, Perez joined Tavistock two years ago and currently heads up a pastry department that includes one assistant. Producing goods for her seasonal a la carte menu lets her flex her creative muscles and entertain member suggestions. “I also pay attention to sales numbers of different dishes, to understand what our members are enjoying from our menu and what they continue to buy,” she adds.
While Tavistock’s a la carte pastries are largely made in-house, volume dictates whether or not Perez will make or outsource select items. “For certain products, it is more feasible and practical to buy as opposed to making everything from scratch, particularly around the holidays,” she says.
Products best made in-house include cakes, mousses, brownies and lemon bars, as she is able to control the use of less-refined sugars, such as glucose and corn syrup. And following the adage of practice makes perfect, Perez believes that putting time and effort into her in-house process produces better results in the long term.
“If I make a product more frequently, my production skills continue to improve and I take pride in putting out a product of excellent quality, made with good ingredients and natural flavorings,” she adds.
For banquets and larger events, Perez opts to only outsource items that can expedite her cooking process, such as pie shells, quiche tarts and select cookie products—all of which she then finishes in-house.
Thinking Outside the Pastry Box
Executive Chef Garrett Yokoyama of Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., has become a firm believer in outsourcing pastry products. During his previous stint at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., he utilized in-house pastry cooks and also outsourced pastry items for larger affairs. But when Yokoyama joined Palos Verdes, he deliberated over whether or not he should hire a dedicated pastry chef.
“My decision was to keep labor at a minimum and outsource most of my dessert offerings for their consistency,” he says. Yokoyama reserves basic pastry products—namely, brownies, bread puddings, cookies and layer cakes—for his skilled line cooks.
“At the clubs I’ve worked for, most of the membership wants comforting desserts they can relate to,” he notes. “Hot-fudge sundaes and warm baked chocolate chip cookies with vanilla bean gelato on top are their favorites.”
For banquets and other large special events, Yokoyama opts to outsource all desserts, including apple crostatas, white chocolate cheesecakes and assorted mini-pastries. “I sample and select the best from local bakeries and my suppliers to ensure that my members are getting the best quality and consistency available,” he explains. Artisanal breads, scones, Danish pastry, muffin batters and sheet cakes are also on his shopping list.
As another reason why Yokoyama opts to buy vs. make the bulk of the club’s pastry offerings, he points to both time and economic considerations. Not only does it save him the cost of hiring a separate pastry chef or assistant, but it frees up kitchen space and equipment that would otherwise be meant for pastry-making.
“Outsourcing pastries and baked goods provides me with the flexibility to provide a larger variety of products to meet the needs of the club and member events, while adhering to budgeting and food costing,” he says. C+RC