C+RC’s Editor, Joanna DeChellis, offers her take on how club and resort chefs have responded to the challenges posed by the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.
In 1925, a devastating case of diphtheria broke out in Nome, Alaska. The only way to get the antitoxin serum to the isolated city was for multiple sled dog teams to relay it across the frozen tundra.
Twenty teams were assembled. Nineteen of those teams ran an average of 31 miles. One team—led by a 12-year-old Siberian Husky—ran 264 miles.
The lead dog of that team did the lion’s share of the work and became known across Alaska for his tenacity, strength, endurance and intelligence. His name was Togo.
In March, our industry faced an unprecedented test. Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders were announced in what felt like 10-minute increments. Everything came to a screeching halt as the world scrambled to figure out how to move forward safely.
Clubhouses may have closed, but chefs and managers saw an opportunity to continue to serve members in a format and on a scale unlike any ever seen before.
Inventory was triaged to minimize waste. Menus were retooled to be carryout-compatible. Food delivery services were launched. Grocery programs were set up to connect members to much-needed supplies. Daily specials, family meals, cocktail kits, take-and-bake packages, breakfast baskets, holiday programs and virtual wine dinners were all introduced to maintain and even increase member engagement.
For an industry that tends to evolve at a glacial pace, it has been motivating to see all these ideas come to life so quickly. It has also offered a fascinating look at the importance of culinary leadership and collaborative management in a high-stakes situation.
I don’t think any of us can afford to miss the lesson here. Clubs need dynamic leaders who trust one another, act in the best interests of members and employees, and are humble enough to roll up their sleeves, get to work and be creative as they stare into the face of the unknown.
Togo was resilient and tenacious in the face of insurmountable odds. What he achieved was made possible by sheer willpower. I’d argue the same is true for what many of you have achieved during the coronavirus crisis.