At The Club at 3 Creek in Jackson, Wyo., Executive Chef Timothy Husband and his staff constantly strive for creative ways to serve up dishes that suit the stimulating surroundings.
The Club at 3 Creek is surrounded by the natural beauty of Jackson, Wyo. Nestled at the base of The Teton Range, the 3 Creek property (which was originally founded as 3 Creek Ranch Golf Club in 2004, and rebranded to its new name on January 1, 2018) offers an exceptional Wyoming experience.
In addition to golf, the club’s 250 members enjoy many other outdoor activities, including tennis, swimming, and Nordic skiing and skating in the winter. Where there’s an active membership there’s an exciting food program, directed by Timothy Husband, who has been at The Club at 3 Creek for five years, the last two as its Executive Chef.
Chef Husband has been working in Jackson Hole for over 25 years and knows what the club’s members and guests will enjoy. As you’ll read, he and his staff constantly strive for creative ways to serve up healthy, tasty and innovative dishes that pleasantly surprise all who dine at The Club at 3 Creek.
I would like to thank Chef Husband for taking the time, as he geared up for a busy holiday season, to share his insights into how to complement a great property with an exciting culinary experience.
C&RB: Tim, many of the chefs I’ve done one-on-one interviews with this year started their educations in various areas outside of the culinary or hospitality field, and that includes you. Like the others, you chose to leave another area of study—in your case, English and art history—to set out to make a career out of cooking. What makes what we do so compelling? Speaking from experience, it is certainly not the “quality of life.”
Husband: Not only is it not about the quality of life, it is also not about the money!
The truth is, I didn’t choose to cook—cooking chose me. One of the most visceral experiences I have ever had was walking with my mom to the local market in Marblehead, Mass., in the middle of an autumn Nor’easter, to buy ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old.
I still remember it just like it was yesterday: the colors of the umbrella, the smell of the wet leaves, the taste of the rain mixed with salt water, the fluorescent lights in Louis Market, and the flavor of the raw chocolate chip cookie dough, once the vanilla was mixed in.
From that moment on, I was always drawn to the kitchen and have strived to provide an equally visceral experience on a nightly basis for our members.
I look at cooking, and eating, as a spiritual experience. When I am in the kitchen, I am as close to what I perceive as a higher power as I will ever be. Everything is in the moment and slows down. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t spent an insane amount of hours in a very stressful environment.
I’ve also experienced a certain amount of “divine intervention,” where the kitchen as a team has pulled off miracles. For those reasons alone, I can’t necessarily say that my quality of life is not amazing. The hard part is balancing a wife and two kids on top of what I do. It’s not always easy, but thankfully I am lucky enough to have a partner who understands the passion and drive of a chef and can accept the brutality of what it is that I do.
And it should also be noted that starting out by studying English and art history in college has still proved to be invaluable in my 28 years of cooking. I may be the best menu editor ever!
C&RB: I’ve heard from a number of chefs recently that “food trends don’t necessarily translate 100% to club cuisine,” even though we are driven to keep up with the best restaurants, either locally or nationally. Does being a club chef call for mixing trends with what we follow and do on a daily basis, through trial and error?
Husband: It’s a combination of the two. We still pay attention to national trends, but we don’t necessarily follow them to the T.
Trends are a starting point from which we can tweak them to the context of what we do at The Club at 3 Creek. One of the biggest benefits of working at a smaller club is that I am acutely aware of the members’ likes and dislikes. Because of that knowledge, we are able to borrow from various trends to provide something new and fresh, without going too far outside the box.
C&RB: Your visibility and openness with your membership has helped you to become more successful at The Club at 3 Creek. Tell us how you have nurtured member relationships in your six years there.
Husband: It’s pretty simple—I actually listen to the members’ input and check my ego at the front gate. I’ve gotten to the point where the members honestly believe that I want to hear their unfiltered feedback, because it’s the only way to improve on the dining experience.
I have an open-door policy for my office and freely give out my cell phone number. I encourage members to call me with cooking questions. I listen to what they are eating at other clubs and restaurants.
It’s all part of building an extended family atmosphere. At the end of the day, it is the members’ club, and if I’m not paying attention to their wants and needs, then I am not doing my job correctly.
C&RB: You stay much further ahead of the dietary needs and restrictions of your membership than most. What inspired you to become more proactive than reactive in these areas?
Husband: One of the worst things, from a kitchen perspective, is being in the weeds and getting special diet orders and not being prepared to accommodate them. Like most clubs, we do the majority of our covers in a very short amount of time, regardless of the reservations we have.
This also relates directly to being aware of national trends. Three years ago, we focused on low-fat menu options. That is no longer an issue. Now it’s gluten. Roughly 80% of our menu starts gluten-free, and another 15% can be easily modified to be gluten-free.
I only bring in naturally brewed gluten-free soy sauce, and we use two breading stations. I find it much easier, and less risky, to start the process from the prep stage, rather than on the fly.
C&RB: Most clubs have peaks and valleys in F&B sales, but none quite as drastic as yours. With 75% of your sales falling during three summer months, explain some of the staffing, menu design, morale and consistency challenges that you face.
Husband: Staffing continues to be the major issue facing the Jackson Hole area. Teton County has the biggest disparity of wealth in the United States. Two-bedroom apartments typically start at $2,000 a month. Yet restaurants keep popping up every other day.
The demand for high-quality kitchen help is severe. The Club at 3 Creek is extremely lucky to have a core of kitchen staff that has been working here 3 to 10 years, all dedicated to producing the best food in Jackson Hole.
Why? Again, it’s not the quality of life or the paycheck. We call it the “100-day war” for a reason—from late June to mid-September, 60-hour work weeks are the norm, and there’s not much time left to enjoy the Tetons.
It comes back to ego. This is not my food, it’s our food. By giving the cooks their own voice to come up with daily features, menu items, soups, etc., they feel like they are an important part of the success of the club. I can’t stress enough to the members how critical it is to have a kitchen staff that cares about what they do, because I honestly believe you can taste passion—call it the sixth taste, right after umami.
I also respect those on my staff, not only as cooks, but as human beings. I’ve worked in kitchens where cooks don’t get along, and it’s miserable. We are a tight-knit group, and actually care about each other. Because of that, morale usually isn’t an issue.
C&RB: As your club demographic has changed and became younger recently, as many of our clubs have experienced, how has that affected what you do as a club chef?
Husband: It really didn’t change that significantly, except from a kids standpoint—and we’re still working on that menu!
Honestly though, our membership is very well-traveled and well-read. They are just as aware of trends as I am. As long as we have a few of the club staples on the menu, they allow us to get pretty creative.
I’ve always approached it on a sliding scale of traditional to exotic, trying to make sure we cover a variety of tastes. The younger demographic hasn’t necessarily changed what I do, beyond giving me an “excuse” to introduce more ethnic dishes.