What do you do with a full staff when the temperature outside reaches 115°F and you have a much lower number of tee times and restaurant reservations than you’re used to managing? You are in the slowest month of the year, but you know you will need all the staff you have in a month.
This is a situation most country club chefs in Arizona ask themselves during the hot summer months. Many private club members are what we lovingly call “snowbirds” who spend the summer in cooler climates, and things around here slow way, way down. We know we must keep our core culinary team intact for the upcoming season, but how do we keep them busy and engaged out of season?
Recognizing that we have an untapped resource in the collective experience of our culinary team, we took this time to more thoroughly cultivate that creativity. This process has allowed us to evolve from a group of individuals to a true Culinary Team.
A culinary team is “a group of skilled individuals who showcase an operational objective and demonstrate a similar commitment and belief in the culinary and company philosophy.”
“Hire, Train and Retain a Strong Culinary Team,”
Wes Tyler, WCMC, CEC, CCA, Executive Chef, The Club at Carlton Woods,
Club & Resort Chef
Keeping within our core mission of “being better today than we were yesterday” every week through the month of August, we choose a menu topic—salads, sandwiches, appetizers, chicken, fish, pork, or beef. Each week, all staff members come with THEIR creations for the menu topic and present them to the team and their peers. Keeping the costs down during these crazy times, we got most of the center of the plate proteins donated from our broadline vendor. We had them give us secondary cuts of meats, so the culinary techniques had to be on point.
The only rule I set was that everyone needed to leave their egos at the door and be open to giving and receiving honest feedback. As each dish was presented, we critiqued the dish as a group by asking, “How can we make this better?”
What resulted was a truly collaborative effort, allowing us to start off with an individual’s idea and end up with an incredible menu that was indeed our creation. Could I have written the summer menu myself? Absolutely. However, the menu we wrote together as a team was one of the best menus I have ever been a part of.
We balanced different cooking styles, backgrounds, and techniques to form our culinary style. I also ensured the team was clear that we could do their food, but it had to adhere to the high standards we have set for our members at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.
I then had the difficult task of taking all these great options and creating a well-rounded menu. I am proud to say that each one of our team members had some input on the final result. We also saved each refined recipe created throughout this summer experiment to use as specials and weekly features during the upcoming season. This ensured most of the dishes we created as a team found their way to our membership.
Throughout this process, several amazing things happened. First, there was complete buy-in from the culinary team, and each person stepped up and owned their dishes and the process. They saw their creations being served to our members and took special pride in producing the menu items and recipes to their specifications. We also got overwhelming support from our membership who loved knowing that there was a story behind the food they were being served.
It has been a wonderful experience for myself and our Culinary Team and, whenever possible, we will write more menus this way.