In the final hours of the 2023 Chef to Chef Conference in Miami, four club chefs competed in a mystery basket-style culinary competition. Only one chef—Sam Brod, CEC, Executive Chef, The Landings Golf & Athletic Club (Savannah, Ga.)—took the trophy and $2,000 grand prize.
“Winning this competition was my way of showing all my mentors that their years of patience and dedication have paid off,” says Brod, who worked alongside his competition apprentice, Josh Nagel, sous chef of Bald Head Island (N.C.) Club. “This experience was especially unique for me because I was able to reconnect with my mentor Kevin Walker, CMC. I met his mentor, Fritz Gitschner, CMC, and competed against my mentee, Kevin Silk [Executive Chef of Savannah (Ga.) Yacht Club]. That’s four ‘generations’ of chefs being able to interact with one another.”
During the competition, each chef had 60 minutes to prepare and plate two dishes—an entrée and a small plate—using the secret mystery basket ingredient, Australian Lamb. The chefs had access to an extensive spread of ingredients, equipment and plateware, and they were each assigned an apprentice hours before the event kicked off.
Brod’s dishes paid homage to the chefs he believed helped mold him personally and professionally. He prepared a Southwestern lamb tartare with ranchero-style salsa, chimichurri and micro cilantro salad with a polygon tuile for his small plate. For his entrée, he prepared a seared, pistou-marinated Aussie lamb T-bone with cauliflower and carrot silken, Pommery mustard and bacon hash, Dijon lamb jus and Yukon Gold potato hay.
“I hope this win helps motivate my staff to showcase their talents beyond the walls of our club and continually hone their craft,” says Brod. “I also want to thank all the hard-working professionals from Club + Resort Chef, all the chef coordinators, presenters and sponsors. Finally, I want to recognize my fellow competitors: Chefs Geo Lanez, Daniel Montano and Kevin Silk. These chefs are all first-class professionals who pushed me to push myself.”
Geoffrey Lanez, MBA, CEC, Executive Chef of The Patterson Club (Fairfield, Conn.) worked with his apprentice, Stephen McCary, Executive Chef of Vestavia Country Club, to prepare coconut-glazed lamb dumplings with soy-pickled jalapeño, toasted peanuts and sesame seeds as his small plate. For the entrée, Lanez prepared spiced lamb medallions with mint chimichurri, glazed carrot, garlic-and-tomato-braised potato and a fennel salad.
“I had a blast competing and having the crowd around us,” says Lanez. “I love the pressure of executing at that level and showcasing what I’ve learned in my career in front of my peers. I had a blast working with Chef McCary and working through the obstacles we faced, like forgetting to prep our sauce for our second course with only six minutes left in the competition.”
Daniel Montano, CEC, Executive Chef of Berkshire Country Club (Reading, Pa.), worked with Stephen Billiar, Chef de Cuisine of Coral Bay Club (Atlantic Beach, N.C.), to prepare mojo lamb made with Australian lamb loin, papas con chile and salsa roja as his small plate. For the entrée, Montano prepared lamb saltado made with Australian lamb rump and served with chifa potato hash, aji verde sauce, and tomato and onion salad.
“I was terrified initially, feeling like the crowd was suffocating me,” says Montano. “But that quickly turned, and the crowd was high-energy and motivating as they constantly cheered the competitors on. After I put my food up, I also loved that some of the more curious members of the crowd asked to taste the ‘leftovers.’”
Kevin Silk, Executive Chef of Savannah (Ga.) Yacht Club, worked with Mario Acosta, Executive Sous Chef of Menlo Country Club, to prepare Australian lamb meatballs with goat cheese cauliflower purée, a pickled fennel salad, toasted hazelnuts and mint gremolata. For his entrée, Silk prepared seared Australian lamb with rosemary fondant potatoes, oyster mushrooms, pea tendrils, carrot purée and coriander lamb jus.
“Having abundant products and equipment helped a lot with this competition,” says Silk. “The station setups were also superior. The only things that went sideways were execution flaws on my part, like not hitting the button on the oven to turn it back on multiple times, only plating three small plates instead of four (and only realizing after I finished plating the third plate, so I had to go back and plate the fourth), and running out of time toward the end so I didn’t have time to taste a few components on my entrée.”The 2023 Club + Resort Chef of the Year competition was sponsored by Porland. DTG provided the cooking carts, Aussie Beef & Lamb provided the mystery basket ingredient, Spring USA provided the induction ranges and cookware, C&T Design provided the gas ranges, and Brava provided the ovens.
The 2024 Club + Resort Chef of the Year Competition will be held during the 2024 Chef to Chef Conference in Austin, March 3-5, 2024. Chefs interested in competing can apply after conference registration opens later this year.