Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club’s Executive Chef Colby Newman plans to recharge, clean and reorganize the club’s kitchen, strategize with his staff, attend the Chef to Chef Conference and do some major R&D.
I’ve never worked for a club or restaurant that shuts down for an extended period of time each year. At my previous club (Amarillo (Texas) CC), which was located in the Texas Panhandle, we would get cold temperatures and snow, but the weather was never extreme enough to keep members away.
Despite that fact, I’ve always believed there are many benefits to both the staff and the club from these kinds of scheduled closures. Here at Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club, where boating is our most popular amenity beyond dining, we close from mid-February until mid-March. So this will be my first extended closure as a club chef. And beyond getting a little extra rest, there are a dozen other reasons I’m looking forward to the shutdown.
First of all, let me be clear. This isn’t a month long paid vacation. I still have to work. I just don’t have to constantly run around for 12 hours a day. And after an extremely busy holiday season, my staff and I are really looking forward to taking this time to recharge so we can continue to provide our members with excellent quality and service.
Unlike Amarillo CC, there are many other clubs in this area. During our shut down, GPYC members are able to use the services of the clubs we have reciprocity with and vice versa. In fact, one of the clubs is halfway through their shut down, so we’ve had many new faces dine with us over the past few weeks. It’s exciting and a unique opportunity to showcase our offering here (and possibly gain new members as a result).
When we close in a few weeks, the club will use the time to complete some renovations and updates. With so much going on in our kitchen, it can be difficult to accomplish tasks unrelated to cooking. Besides repainting, we will also do some serious cleaning and reorganizing.
I’ll also be doing some research and development. I’m still very new to Michigan and we’re in an area surrounded by many well-known restaurants, but it can be difficult to find the time to dine at them. I’m hoping I can use my time during this shutdown to try new places, learn more about the local food culture and get inspired by food from other chefs. I also have plans to thoroughly read all the cookbooks I received for Christmas. I’m eager to create new dishes and menus based on all this research.
My sous chef and I will also be traveling to Ohio for a trip set up by one of our vendors for a couple of days. During our trip, we’ll be able to try out a couple of restaurants. Obviously, my sous and I spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, but we also fish together on our days off. I think it will be nice to spend some time together in a setting that is still about food but outside of our stressful work environment. We can brainstorm without any interruptions.
I’ll also be going to the Chef to Chef Conference in Seattle in March. This will be my third year attending and it’s an event I always look forward to. As I’ve said before, there are many differences between running a club kitchen and a restaurant kitchen, so it’s an amazing opportunity to connect and learn from other club chefs.
My staff and I will also strategize and plan for the future of our club’s dining program. For most clubs, is not necessarily a priority to stay trendy. But GPYC is evolving. Fresh ideas are welcomed here. In fact, we recently hired a new General Manager who will start in February. He’s young, but experienced. This year, we will also have the youngest Commodore in GPYC’s history and many are saying that the three of us might be one of youngest teams operating our caliber of club. During the shutdown, the three of us will have the time to discuss and plan without distraction. And I believe that getting to know our new GM during this time will definitely be beneficial as we all get on the same page.
Outside of work, one of things I’m looking forward to most is spending a little extra time with my wife and son. For almost 8 years, Lauren and I have never had a “normal” Saturday/Sunday weekend together. I’ve never been able to come home at 5pm every day. And we very rarely get to eat dinner before 10pm. My son, Hudson, is only 3 months old, but he is growing fast. During this time, I will get to witness some of the moments I usually miss during the day. For just a few weeks we’ll get to live what most consider a “normal” life. I’m certain it will go too fast, but I’m ready to have some time where I can work without as much stress and spend a little more time at home before the craziness begins again.