As the newly appointed Executive Chef of Sand Point Country Club, Aaron Masanotti, CEC, is artfully updating menus and culinary programs while respecting the regional ingredients and traditions of the Pacific Northwest.
Recently my family and I relocated from Atlanta, Georgia to Seattle, Washington to take on the role of Executive Chef of Sand Point Country Club. This was a big move that came at a very uncertain time, but one we agree was highly worthwhile. We drove across the country with our toddler and dog and were reminded of just how generic highway dining options can be. We tried to stay on the beaten bath during dining periods since we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and all and no matter where we were, we came across the same food options no matter the state or town.
This served as reminder of the commoditization of food in our country. And as a lesson for what I, as a chef, need to focus my attention on given my new terroir. My plan at Sand Point is to focus on the bounty of ingredients regional to the Pacific Northwest, to showcase sustainability and locality as often as I can and to serve as a differentiating touchpoint for my members in a city rich with outstanding dining options (once you get past the fast food along the highway).
As culinarians, we all know how amazing the produce and seafood available in this region are, so it’s now my responsibility as Executive Chef of Sand Point to showcase that bounty for my members.
As club chefs, we have a responsibility to offer the best cuisine and offerings possible to our members. We need to take the “farm to table” mindset and really implement it in our menus and seasonal offerings. We need to teach our cooks how to do this as well. They need to see, touch, smell, and taste the amazing products regional to our corner of the country.
Old school culinary programs have no place in post-COVID kitchens. Our focus needs to be on micro-sustainability wherever possible. We must analyze what can be grown on-site or in-house such as herbs and micro-greens, which require minimal attention once a process and good location are setup. This is just a small way to start, but a way to start, nonetheless. And it teaches our cooks and our culinary teams more about where products come from and how our food much incorporate what is regional to our area. It also gives our members a point of pride that they are able to get dishes and ingredients only grown at our club.
Our landscape has changed and it will continue to change. But no matter what happens in the world around us, we must continue being the best stewards of the environment, of our farmer partners, and of our suppliers, breeders, growers. We must do this for our members.
Since coming to Seattle, my team and I have sought the most awarded and revered restaurants in the area. We want to know what we’re up against. We want do this so we know how high the bar is set, then we set a laser focus on getting to that level and surpassing it.
We are lucky to have persevered through the uncertainty that 2020 has bestowed upon us. It is imperative that we maintain good stewardship for our departments and vendors. The way forward to prosperity as a department is not by doing the same old stuff. We cannot do large banquets or have more than 50% in the dining room right now. This means we must GROW. We must learn and adapt to the changing landscape. We must focus on what is important in our industry—the food and the members we serve.
Food is the star of the show. It’s what brings members to us and keeps them here. That should not change. What needs to change though, is the use of beautiful products, and the amount of “media” coverage that they receive. Make sure members and guests know how committed kitchens are to sustainability and regionality. Most of our members tend to be very affluent world-travelers. They know what world-class cuisine is. Also, they have chosen to set roots at your local club. So, I say, reward them. Reward them with the bounty of the area they have chosen to live. Remind them daily how bountiful and delicious the area they live in is, and they will undoubtedly show their appreciation.