Tim Recher, CEC, AAC, CWX, Director of Culinary Operations at Quail West G&CC, hopes to attract team members who share his passion and drive for culinary excellence.
Running a club in Southwest Florida has one feature that cuts both ways: Seasonality.
It’s a nice perk when things slow down in the summer here at Quail West Golf & Country Club. It allows us to catch our breath, take vacations, work on projects, and more. But there is a downside and that is the challenges associated with seasonal staffing. Close to half of my staff is seasonal. This means they are only on my team from October through May. This makes it hard to build a program that has any sense of continuity and grows each year, creating a legacy of culinary excellence.
This is the joy and pain of my plight. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be the Director of Culinary & Clubhouse Operations at Quail West G&CC. The club is thriving. Chefs are in high demand and the members love what we do. (The weather is pretty great, too!)
I am—or at least I try to be—a positive person. But the staffing situation is especially difficult. We can complain and point to the reasons, but I’m not going to debate or lament any of those. Instead, I want to focus on a brief conversation I had with a very well-known chef friend in Philadelphia.
A few months ago, my wife took me to Philadelphia to celebrate my birthday. We went to the highly acclaimed restaurant Zahav, a spot I have wanted to try for years. It had just reopened with the outdoor dining yurts. She was lucky enough to get us a reservation and we went to dinner hoping it would be as great as expected.
It was better, but that’s not the point of my story. After our meal, Chef Michael Solomonov came out to wish me a happy birthday. I was honored, as you can imagine and it was truly amazing to get to talk with him for a few minutes. I’m a huge fan and I have all of his cookbooks. As we were talking about the situation we are all in, he said something that has stuck with me. He said that one of the good things to come out of the pandemic is the fact that it drove some of the people out of this business that probably shouldn’t be here in the first place. It seemed a little odd and probably a little cold at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
We are chefs during the best possible time in history. The acclaim, recognition, TV, and cookbooks have put our profession in the spotlight and shown the world all the good things about being a chef. The notoriety has also brought in a lot of people who may be here for the wrong reasons. Quite simply, going through this time has made people evaluate if they are truly dedicated to this profession.
None of us are getting rich quickly. None of us are getting TV shows. We all work weekends, holidays, and times when everyone else is out enjoying life. We do this because we love our craft.
Looking at this crazy past year, those of us who are still standing are here for one reason: We love being chefs. There may be easier ways to make a living but in our hearts, the kitchen is where we want to be. It’s where we belong. That, to me, is a good thing and hopefully has a positive lasting impression on our craft.
The same can be said for our staff.
It’s even harder now to hire anyone, much less a qualified professional. Social media feeds are flooded with chefs talking about no-show interviews, unreasonable demands, and applicants just stating they make more money staying home. While there is nothing we can really do about this, we have to look at the long game and remember that this too shall pass.
Eventually, the winds will shift and people will need to get back to work. We will all see applications with massive gaps of unemployment. Not gaps because there were no jobs but gaps because they chose not to work. I’m not advocating either side, but what will you do with this?
Many, if not most of our staff are just working to pay the bills and take care of their families. I totally respect that. However, when given a choice of people to bring on, who are you looking for? Someone who chose to stay home or someone that went out and worked?
Maybe, just maybe, we will come out on the other side of this staffing challenge with an opportunity to build stronger teams who can share in our passion and our drive culinary excellence.