Elena Clement, CEPC, AAC didn’t plan on taking an industry job, but the challenges and opportunities with the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Chevy Chase (Md.) Club were too exciting to pass up.
Humoring my chef friend, Scott Craig, I agreed to visit him at Chevy (Md.) Chase Club where he has been the Executive Chef since late 2014 after serving as Executive Chef of Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. He was looking for a new pastry chef but I was hesitant to take the discussion too seriously as I was not looking for a job. Educating and consulting for the past several years had served me well and I was enjoying the pace and my life.
After visiting with Chef and having a full tour of Chevy Chase Club, I was intrigued by our conversation. Chef is very good salesman. And he was pitching all the benefits and potenial awesomeness that would come of my working here. We spoke for about three hours that day and by the end I had agreed to return to the club for a tasting.
The tasting went well and the interviews continued for the rest of the day. After more than eight hours at the club, I went home to digest the events and the many conversations I had with all of the management staff. It wasn’t long after that Chef graciously offered me a position—and I eagerly accepted the new challenge.
That’s what this is: a new challenge. It’s another step forward in my career and another learning opportunity to keep me from getting stale. I wasn’t looking for a job but I just couldn’t pass this up. Being back in a kitchen is fun and exciting. Every day is different here and I now have the opportunity to enhance my skills. Our staff is young and hungry and that motivates me to be better, stay ahead of the curve and relearn what I have forgotten.
Club life as a pastry chef is unique. We have the opportunity to be creative and provide members with new experiences all the time. While keeping food cost in check is important, I have not been told “no” when sourcing high-quality products to make amazing desserts. This differs so much from my past 15 years of teaching and consulting. It challenges me and I find myself constantly thinking on my feet. Being capable of changing my daily plan on a whim is also sharping my mind, too. No day is the same here and I love that.
When hired, Chef set out a few simple goals for me and the pastry shop. First, I was to get a handle on the entire operation. Second, I was to continue to make more items in-house. Third, I was to create standardized recipes and spec sheets for all of the items made in the shop. Most days I feel that the first goal has been achieved J We are currently making approximately 95% of our items in
Most days I feel that the first goal has been achieved. We’re currently making approximately 95% of our items in-house. (We’re not currently capable of producing bread, croissant and Danish for banquets, therefore, these are purchased.) Our recipe book continues to grow as we determine which recipes we really like and want to use. And the spec sheets are piling up for each of our menu items. (I love our spec sheets because they are a great tool for the front and back of the house.)
I’m nine months in here at Chevy Chase and I couldn’t be more please with my decision to accept this new challenge. At the end of each day I am thankful for this opportunity. Going back to an industry job was not on my radar, but I could not pass this up because the team here is amazing and the opportunities to serve our members are endless. Plus, as a club pastry chef, I have the unique freedom and support to create and produce delicious desserts and sweet treats that inspire me and help me evolve both personally and professionally.