|Chef Byrnes (center) and his team consistently served up culinary delights to complement a week that brought enthusiastic, larger-than-expected crowds to Aronimink and culminated with an exciting win by Justin Rose.|
The long-awaited return of a major tour event to the Philadelphia area left a great taste in everyone’s mouths, thanks in large part to the efforts of Chef Jim Byrnes and the F&B team at Aronimink GC.
The AT&T National was held at Aronimink Golf Club, in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square, Pa., during the week of June 28-July 4. The PGA Tour event was moved from its home site of Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., because Congressional will be hosting the U.S. Open in 2011 (Aronimink will also host the AT&T next year).
The AT&T National, which raises money for youth charities including the Tiger Woods Learning Center, and also pays tribute to the U. S. Armed Forces, brought top touring professionals to the Philadelphia area for the first time in a long time (Gary Player won the 1962 PGA Championship at Aronimink). The week-long event drew crowds exceeding 40,000 per day to watch the competition for $6.2 million in prize money on the scenic course that the legendary Donald Ross intended to be his masterpiece.
James H. Byrnes CHEF PROFILE
Aside from golf, many things go into pulling off a successful event like this—not the least of which is food. I had the pleasure of working for the entire week as a guest chef volunteer with Executive Chef Jim Byrnes and his great team at Aronimink. There is no easy way around the long hours required to execute three meals a day for so many people—but I will say that when there is a loyal and dedicated chef and staff directing the operation, those hours are a whole lot easier to take. The entire week went off without a hitch as far as the sponsors and patrons were concerned.
I gave Chef Byrnes a week to catch his breath before asking him for insights into what was behind the flawless execution of the most important catered event of his career.
Q Jim, after so many months of planning, was the tournament what you expected it would be?
A The event was fantastic. In addition to our experience hosting the 2003 Senior PGA, we worked closely with the PGA and AT&T over the past two years, so we had a good idea of what was involved. We expected a large turnout, and we were well prepared for it. What did surprise me was the high level of excitement in the atmosphere that began the first day, and seemed to grow each day until the final round.
Q Your overnight production team was key to staying ahead of things the entire week. I don’t think you could turn out a few thousand meals a day during three meal periods without this crew—do you agree?
A Absolutely—the overnight team played a key role. They took care of most of the next day’s preparation, so that when we arrived at 4:00 AM, we could hit the ground running. The entire team worked incredibly hard, and the spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm, plus a good sense of humor, kept us going. We also received a lot of positive feedback on the food and the service, so that gave us another boost. I am so proud of everyone on our team.
Q It seemed that the decision to borrow a US Foodservice tractor-trailer with a large starting order was essential to pull off the event. Then you continued to get small orders all week in the early morning, as the week went on. How did you think the purchasing component of the event went?
A The PGA and AT&T provided us with solid forecasts, so our initial order was more than adequate. During the week, we had small orders to replenish supplies. All of the vendors that we used for the event did a terrific job getting us the products we needed on time, whether it was early morning or later in the day.
Q What was discussed at your wrapup meeting, and what changes would you make for next year?
A At our final meeting, we were very pleased with the execution of our plans. We discussed what worked well, such as the provision of three different meal periods for approximately six hundred people at each meal. The transition from one meal to another also went smoothly. As for next year, I would make some minor changes in ordering, by slightly reducing the amount of perishable items on the initial order. Additions to my morning kitchen crew would also be helpful.
Q A PGA Tour event is usually very profitable if managed properly. Did you attain the projected numbers that were forecasted?
|Specator turnout exceeded projections by 10%, but Aronimink’s F&B team kept up with demand while staying within budget.|
A Final figures are still being tabulated, but we were able to work within our budget. Spectator turnout exceeded our projections by 10%. Our menu pricing allowed us to make a profit, which will account for approximately 10-20% of our annual food and beverage budget.
Q Now that it’s over, what would you say about how hosting the AT&T National has affected your operation and the regular F&B services you provide for Aronimink’s membership?
A The team worked hard throughout the days leading up to the tournament to provide our members with the same level of service we’ve always provided. Regular foodservice at the club continued until the day prior to the event and as soon as it was over, each department met and prepared to resume daily operations for the following day. This was a challenge with all of the additional people and activity, and we addressed it by adding extra staff. During the tournament, the members of our team took great pride in enabling the club to show well on an international level, and their high level of professionalism contributed greatly to our success.
And a side benefit for me personally was that I appreciated the opportunity to work with you and several other chefs from top clubs in the Philadelphia area.