Colby Newman, Amarillo CC’s Executive Chef, has big plans to elevates his club’s dining operation throughout the new year.
I became the Executive Chef of the Amarillo (Texas) Country Club in October 2014, just a little over a month before the busiest time of the year started. Transitioning from a restaurant to a much larger country club environment was already an adjustment, but having Thanksgiving and dozens of holiday parties be the first events to really prove what I was capable of was beyond stressful. Two years, and three holiday seasons later, the job hasn’t gotten any easier. And it probably never will. But my confidence and the knowledge I have of what it takes to be a club chef has greatly increased.
In the kitchen, we’re always trying to improve and keep things fresh and current for our members. So with 2016 came a lot of positive change. We changed our a la carte menu more frequently based on the seasons, completely updated our banquet menu, increased the number of dining events, brought in other large events to help promote new memberships, and became involved in several outside opportunities within our community which helped bring recognition to the club.
But as we move into 2017, I have even more ideas and goals set for myself and my team.
This past year we improved the way we train our kitchen staff by implementing more cross-training between dining and banquets, created a recipe book to learn from, and even did little things, like making my cooks take the menu tests given to our servers. With this new year, I want to make sure I keep giving my employees the tools and skills they need to succeed and to challenge them. We will continue to change our menus, not just for the sake of our members, but so that my staff has the opportunity to learn more about food. When changing our menu with the seasons, my cooks have a better understanding of when foods reach their peak and which seasons they grow in, as well as improving their knowledge of the products we use—how to cook with them, how to pair them with other flavors, and how and why they go together.
With so many things going on, and so many employees, it’s very easy for some to get disorganized or even confused. Organization and clear communication between my kitchen and other areas of the club is something I always want to improve upon (for the sanity of myself and my employees).
I love to teach and share my love of food and cooking with others, not only for my staff, but also for people just interested in learning. This is why I’m really hoping to introduce our much younger generation of members to youth cooking classes. Children are the future of our club, so I want to find other ways of getting them involved infood-relatedd activities. They have things to do for golf, tennis, and the pool, but I want to get them more involved with the dining beyond just eating their meals here. I also have plans this year to plant our own garden in order to bring fresher produce to our club – something else I can get the children involved in as well.
In order to help increase our revenue, I will be offering more dining events for our members, events such as chef’s tables, private dinners, and beer and wine dinners. In the past, we have tried to do a special event every month, but for 2017 we will be doubling the number of these events. These events are a great way to introduce our members to new foods and flavors, as well as gaining new memberships for any guests they may bring. And just like in any field of work, it’s good to bring in other experts to learn from, which is why I will be trying to start guest chef dinners this year. Not only will it be a great experience for our members, but also an excellent learning experience for myself and my staff.
I have many goals for the club this coming year, but I also have many personal goals. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is knowing I will never be able to please every single member. Unfortunately, no matter what environment you work in, there will always be people who are resistant to change or who will never be happy. No matter how hard you work, or how many hundreds of people have nothing but complimentary things to say about your food, there will always be that one person who only seems to complain. I’m completely open to criticism. It’s an important way for me to learn, but at the same time I need to be realistic with any complaints that come my way. It’s unrealistic for me to change everything back to the way it used to be just to please a few members, especially since hundreds of them are so happy with how I’ve turned the food around the past two years. I’m a perfectionist. I think you need to be in order to be a successful chef. But there is no way I will be able to please everyone. So, in this coming year, I want to continue to keep this in mind, and to not take any unrealistic complaints too personally.
As a chef, it’s really important for me to always be learning and evolving. So, my next personal goal for this year is to continue my education and become a Certified Executive Chef. It’s challenging to find the spare time to complete a task like this when you run a kitchen, but I know it’s what I need to do to help me further my career.
Lastly, one of the things I’m really looking forward to in 2017 is the Chef to Chef Conference in March. Last year was my first time attending and it was an amazing learning experience. Not only was I able to get great insight and new ideas, but I was also able to make connections with other club chefs. I know so many chefs who work in restaurants around the world, but I’ve learned there’s many differences between running a restaurant and running a club, so it can be difficult when trying to relate to certain issues. Through the Chef to Chef Conference I was able to meet other club chefs who can share their challenges and advice. This year I look forward to keeping in touch with the other chefs I meet. It’s nice to have that additional support system—or to be it for others—and knowing that there’s others experiencing the same things.
I’ve grown a lot the past two years as a chef and a person. I’m looking forward to what this next year has to offer for both by club and myself.