Colby Newman has spent the past three years as the Executive Chef of Amarillo (Texas) Country Club. He recently accepted the position of Executive Chef at Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club and he’s excited about all the future holds.
The day my wife told me she was pregnant was the happiest day of my life. I arrived to work just a couple hours later with a grin on my face and amazing news that I couldn’t even tell anyone yet. As the day wore on, I put out fire after fire and my stress level rose. I began to really think about what I wanted my priorities to be now that I was going to be a father. My biggest concern was my work hours. Constantly working to provide for my family but never getting to see them is not the type of father and husband I want to be. I’ve tried really hard this past year to balance my home and work life, but there are always things out of my control that come up and throw me slightly off course. I’ve said before that I’m not ready to give up being a chef but knowing that in eight months we were going to have a new family member had me beginning to seriously question whether or not I should find a career where I could be home more.
A few months went by and my stress levels were still high and I had put out hundreds of more fires. I was still contemplating what would be the best thing for my family. Then I was contacted by someone who thought I would be a great fit for a certain club they knew had an opening for an Executive Chef. This wasn’t just any club though. It was Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club, ranked as a top three yacht club in the country. They had an interest in me.
Quite honestly, I was surprised. Even though I’ve been a chef for a long time, I’ve only been an executive club chef for three years. I’m somewhat of a rookie in the club world. I have a lot of talent, passion, and drive, but I don’t have the credentials that the previous GPYC Executive Chef had.
Whatever the outcome, my wife and I agreed that attending the interview would be a great experience and it would give me the opportunity to see what a top club operation was like up close.
(My wife is my biggest fan, but I later came to find out that she really only agreed for me to go because she didn’t think I was qualified for the position based on the experience of the club’s previous chef. Pregnant and happy with our life in Amarillo, moving wasn’t ideal in her mind.)
Less than 24 hours after my 3-hour interview, I was told to start preparing to come back to GPYC as the final candidate to cook for a tasting. This time I was told it was important to bring my wife. She would get a tour of the club, meet with the General Manager, and have an appointment with a realtor as well. That’s when it really hit us. The possibility of us moving our life 1,300 miles away was actually plausible. She was incredibly proud of me, but as my wife’s eyes filled with tears thinking of everything she’d have to leave, I was unsure if this was the best decision. We both knew it’s what would be best for my career, but what would it do for the dynamic of our marriage and our growing family? Since I’m never home, my wife is really the one in charge of our household and she has the final say. We decided that if she didn’t like Grosse Pointe or didn’t think it would be a good fit, then we wouldn’t move forward with the process.
Five days later, my wife and I returned to the gorgeous community of Grosse Pointe. The following day I would be cooking for my tasting, so we spent our first day there exploring the area with a realtor and getting a better feel for everything Grosse Pointe has to offer. As we were driving around the neighborhoods, I could picture raising my family there. Unlike Amarillo, there’s water and an abundance of trees. It’s a family friendly environment and a tight-knit community. There’s even a city ordinance prohibiting fast food establishments—a chef’s dream. It’s a kind of utopia for families and it’s where we agreed we wanted to be. But I still needed to make sure the club was a good fit for me.
My tasting was supposed to consist of two entrees with certain proteins and a salad that could be a lunch or dinner entrée. With everything else, I had free reign. I could also make other dishes in addition to what was required of me as long as the tasting wasn’t longer than 2 hours. Lastly, I wasn’t supposed to do it all on my own. I had to assign other chefs in the kitchen certain tasks. It was an excellent way for me to see what the club’s cooks were like and if we meshed well together. I really enjoyed working with the members of their kitchen. They were all very eager to learn and discussed how they want to continue receiving direction and guidance from a leader, especially when it comes to learning new things.
While my wife was with the realtor looking at houses, I arrived in the kitchen at 8 a.m. to prepare for my 3 p.m. tasting for the General Manager and the Commodores. I made sure to stick to my style of food. I wanted to impress them and prepare dishes that would be suitable for their club, but I also wanted my food to reflect the kind of chef I am on a daily basis. I didn’t want to pull out all my tricks and risk going way out of my comfort zone—especially for people who would be determining the next step in my career.
By 5 p.m my tasting was finished and my wife and I sat down to talk with the GM, Commodores, and even some of the staff. Then it happened. They offered me the position of Executive Chef. My wife and I looked at each other and without any further discussion, I accepted. There was no need for us to go back home and discuss the pros and cons. We both knew this was the right step for both my career and our family. It was without a doubt the hardest, yet easiest, life changing decision we’ve ever made.
Being able to share my thoughts and experiences through C&RB’s Chef to Chef and this blog has helped me a lot with being a club chef. It’s been an incredible outlet to make connections with other people affiliated with clubs and for our members to see what being a club chef is really like. Within my portfolio, I actually included several of my blogs—and I’m glad I did. Those blogs made the GM feel like he knew a lot about me before even meeting me. He had a better understanding of the kind of asset I would be for their club. It’s not always about the food. It’s also about your personality and how you interact with members and staff. Of course, the food needs to be amazing, but it’s important that your character fits well within a club’s dynamic.
I was nervous to tell the managers at Amarillo CC about the decision we had made. I have formed many relationships with our members and I didn’t want to let them down. Everyone has been sad to hear of my leaving, but it’s been overwhelming to hear just how proud and happy they are for us. I think I’ve had a tremendous impact on the food and dining experience here, but now it’s time for me to take another club to the next level.
Besides starting at a new club and being in an amazing new city, I’m also excited to be in the Detroit area where I’ll be surrounded by talented chefs from other clubs and restaurants. I’m looking forward to making new connections and continuing learning. Of course, I’m going to still be working a lot, but I think my schedule will be a little more manageable. Taking this job is a long term commitment and we know it’s the best decision for us. We always knew Amarillo would not be our forever home, but I’m glad I didn’t settle for a job where I would no longer be cooking just to stay here a little longer. Being a club chef is not something I’m ready to give up—and it won’t be for a very long time.