Chad Myers, Executive Chef of Dubuque (Iowa) Golf & Country Club, learned that by coming out of the kitchen to engage with members, he can add value in new and profound ways while also fueling his passion for food.
My ability to be a charismatic people person isn’t on the level I feel is expected of an executive chef—especially of a club executive chef. It’s hard for me to put on my tall hat and strut around the dining room like a peacock with my best, buttery Frank Sinatra voice asking members and guests how they’re doing. To me, this behavior screams arrogance and that’s a trait I detest.
If a member or guest ask to meet the chef, I will come out. But these cases are usually to talk about something specific, or because they want to extend a thank you, which I will handle gracefully. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate people and I do see the value in the chef coming out of the kitchen to interact with the members. I’m just really bad at small talk especially with people I don’t know very well.
I think this is because I have two sides to my personality. With people I don’t know, I’m shy and introverted. But when I get to know you and I’m comfortable around you, I’m actually very extroverted. I’m loud, sarcastic, and I usually try to be the funny guy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I am honest to a fault.
The more comfortable I grow in my role here at Dubuque (Iowa) Golf & Country Club, the more I am learning how my personality is actually a great fit for this club. As I’ve gotten to know the membership, I am able to be more outgoing and I’m able to take bigger risks with my food because the members know me, they trust me and they see what I’m trying to do.
It’s taken me a while to accept that my personality is actually a useful tool.
Recently a member called me out to their table. It was lunch and I wasn’t cooking on the line. My first instinct was panic, but I was told they just wanted to meet me. So I made my way out. The member and her guest wanted to simply tell me that they think I have been doing great things with beets this season. I immediately felt relaxed. I thanked them and told them how the beet salad was actually inspired by my trip to the Chef to Chef conference in Atlanta when I got to go to a local restaurant named Gunshow and eat an amazing beet salad. The two were immediately engaged. They invited me to sit down and talk about food with them. The conversation lasted over an hour. They asked me about my family, about where I like to eat, and about things I like to make. Then they asked how I feel about foie gras? I told them that I freakin’ love foie and that when my wife and I travel, if there is foie or beef tartare on a menu, I will be ordering it and I will get to eat it all because my wife can’t stomach it. The member smiled and told me about how one of my predecessors, who was a beloved DGCC chef that passed away, once made a salad with seared foie and a grapefruit vinaigrette. I agreed that the dish sounded delicious and I offered to recreate it. The member explained how her birthday was coming up. She asked if I would be willing to cook a dinner of my own design so long as it included that foie salad. I accepted and we exchanged numbers.
Through a few text messages, I learned that this member also loves lamb and sole so I went to work on a multi-course menu and tried to use the best quality ingredients I had on hand as well as order a few goodies to make the dinner extra special.
We ultimately created four courses. They were:
Course 1: Seared foie with local mixed greens, pickled Chef’s Garden cucamelon, buttermilk curd, chive, and charred citrus.
Course 2: Sole paupiettes, saffron potatoes, saffron vin blanc sauce, nasturtium, micro sea bean, and lemon oil
Course 3: Herb-crusted lamb with a truffled fennel puree, morels, and a thickened lamb jus
Course 4: Rosemary caramel pudding topped with a pecan shortbread crumble, house-made buttermilk ice cream, orange zest and barrel-aged Blis maple syrup
The meal was very well received and it made me proud to do what I do. More so it made me proud that I came out of the kitchen to engage with this member. As a result of that interaction, I was able to recreate a food memory from her club with my own added twists. And I was able to use quality ingredients to make beautiful plates.
This experience taught me that I need to step out of my comfort zone and explore opportunities to continue to do this for the membership. Anyone can go to a restaurant but not everyone can go to their club, talk with their chef and ask him or her to recreate a dish in a new and personal way.
I love to feed people who love to be fed. And these members appreciated not only that I was able to recreate a dish for them, but that their club would go above and beyond to make them happy. That dynamic is what this business—and my job as their chef—is all about.