At Tetherow Golf Club, action stations allow for a la minute execution as well as member-chef interaction.
The marriage of eating and entertainment has been going on for years. But action stations are more than just a show—especially at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Ore.
“Food has become a social experience with our members,” says Zac Hoffman, Executive Chef. “Action stations are the best way to capitalize on that culture and give an event more personality. Members love seeing the ingredients, asking questions and watching it all come together. Plus, cooks enjoy working outside the kitchen.”
With 365 members, Tetherow does about $2.8 million in annual F&B and is in the process of building a brand-new event pavilion that will offer nearly 4,000 sq. ft. of space after its scheduled opening in July 2016.
Before construction began, Tetherow hosted most of its events on a patio. (The space has since become the under-construction home to the new pavilion.)
“Action stations were a much easier style of service because we were able to execute a la minute and didn’t have to move prepped product from the kitchen to the patio,” says Hoffman. “When we hosted a member event, we always did an action station.”
Hoffman’s favorite station on the patio under the tent was dubbed the “King’s Table.”
“I had a dream that we were doing a Viking dinner for the men’s member-guest last year,” he relates. “So we decided to do it. Our sommelier got giant magnums of malbec and big, huge glasses. We spent the whole day smoking whole meats like quail, pheasant, ducks, chicken, whole pigs, rabbit and all sorts of game. The cooks used huge handmade knives to hack it all up once it was cooked, and we encouraged the members and guests to dig in with their hands.
“The icing on the cake for me was the weather,” Hoffman continues. “It was downpouring and the wind and rain were beating against the walls of the tent. It felt so incredibly Viking-like.”
Both Viking-inspired and otherwise, action stations for Tetherow have become a means of culinary story-telling.
“We elevate the experience by putting a cook on the station who has a story to tell,” says Hoffman. “For example, when we do a raw seafood bar, we’ll have a chef shucking oysters or carving fresh fish, talking about where the product came from and when it came out of the water.”
In this way, the stories the cooks tell at the stations become as much a part of the experience as the food.
“Members want to hear the backstory,” says Hoffman. “They want to know why we chose to make this dish or use that ingredient.”
Hoffman also uses action stations as motivation for the club’s cooks. “My staff and I fight over who gets to man the action stations,” says Hoffman, who generally gives the nod to cooks who are sociable and good at multi-tasking.
Once selected, that person is tasked with executing the station from start to finish, including setup, prep, cooking, serving and cleanup.
“We also like to do action stations away from typical banquet spaces,” Hoffman notes. To help in these cases, Tetherow recently bought a basic food cart (see photo above, top right) that has refrigeration, a hot holding station, a prep station and a fryer. The staff has then taken this cart out on the golf course and to other spots throughout the property, to serve everything from made-to-order tacos to freshly fried mini-corndogs to a mac-and-cheese bar.
“Generally, from a dollar perspective action stations don’t cost more or less than any other type of service,” Hoffman says. “But from an experience perspective, they’re priceless.”