Why I’m Leaving and What I Hope to Leave Behind

By | July 11th, 2018

After twenty years as Executive Chef of Glenmoor CC, Penelope Wong has submitted her resignation. She has big dreams for her future and big hopes for the team she has mentored as well as the operation she has spent her career elevating.

Club chefs come and go. We hear about it all the time. And now, I’m one of them.

After a twenty-year tenure at Glenmoor CC filled with blood, sweat, and tears, I have decided it is time to find a new way to have my cake and eat it, too. I miss my family. I miss my daughter. I regret the lack of availability to my son during his childhood when I began my tenure here.

At the same time, I know I am going to miss my Glenmoor family, my team and my fellow managers who have all supported me in my quest to continually raise the bar with our dining programs here.

In the club politics that will inevitably follow my departure, I ask this: Once a department head departs, what happens to the development of the team that remains? Will they stay, or will they follow? What about their interests? One of the many reasons I’ve held off for so long in making this decision has been because of my team.

As so many of you know, club life can be a complete shit storm of dealing with multiple banquets booked simultaneously while maintaining standards of service in all member dining areas including the many satellite locations on the property, in addition to staff calling out sick and coolers going down at the most inopportune times. Many nights, I drive home after a 12-15-hour day, and I wonder, “how the f*#% did we get through this day?”

Then I think of my staff.

Their dedication and loyalty are something to be proud of; and I have been honored to repay them by way of mentorship, friendship and my contribution to their professional growth.

Before my final day here, I will focus on preparing them for my departure. My goal will be to ensure they have all the necessary tools and knowledge to assist in making this transition as seamless as possible. I have been blessed with several long-term individuals who have more potential for success than even they know. I have barely tapped into their potential. I hope that I can nourish their goals enough to keep their momentum going. And I hope that their growth continues to be nurtured after my departure.

Is it gutsy or just plain stupid as f*#% of me to walk away from the golden handcuffs of being a private club chef? Is the sought-after work-life balance achievable as a club chef, given the capacity of the many roles we must fulfill?

I genuinely wished I had the answer to both of those questions. For the last twenty years, my life and my character have been clearly defined by three simple words: sense of urgency. Those three words have dictated my demeanor, my tasking abilities, my low levels of temperament regarding issues I simply don’t want to deal with outside of work and my lack of empathy toward issues that have major impacts on others around me.

Having a sense of urgency is a great thing and displays a great work ethic for being a (multi) task manager and master. But having that sense of urgency be the natural driving force in my daily modus operandi has become a deterrent from enjoying what little time I have outside of work.

I hope to continue growing in my own accomplishments and advance in the next chapter of my career. I love this industry. It’s what I know. It’s in my blood. I love this craft. There’s more out there, though, and it’s time for me to work toward new goals.

Here’s the best part: I’ll be around to see my daughter grow up while chasing my next vision.

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough; to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity.  Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” –Anthony Bourdain


3 Responses to Why I’m Leaving and What I Hope to Leave Behind

  1. Steve Ryder says:

    Bourdain talked about having a “normal” relationship in this business is almost impossible unless both parties understand the commitment and the hours needed to not only be successful but at times just to survive. My wife gave up her career (pastry Chef, ran a department for Fresh Fields) to raise our boys. We don’t have much as far as stuff and memorable trips over the last 20 years because we did not have much disposable income. I would have spent more time with my children if I could change that; I do not have regrets. Worth it to have a mother for my children who did more than drop them off and pick them up. Being a parent is the scariest, most rewarding, most difficult, least understood, never ending yet blink and you miss the moment endeavor humans can are capable of. Good Luck Chef

    • Penelope Wong says:

      Thank you for your message and the reiteration of how important family-first truly is. I’ve received numerous messages from Chef’s all over the country expressing overwhelming support for my decision as well as a little bit of resonation and delving into their own struggles with decisions trying to find that perfect work-life balance; and some have even expressed this move as a huge inspiration and motivation for them in dealing with their struggles. I don’t have all the answers in what is right and wrong. I just know my own situation. Am I retiring? Absolutely not. Will I continue to lend my thoughts and creativity to this industry one way or another? Absolutely yes. And will I have more time to spend with my family? First and foremost. As Bourdain pointed out the impossibility of any normalcy in life’s personal relationships outside of the kitchen, well – that craving for normalcy is what has spurred my quest to discover a means. I believe it can exist without having to give up my passion for this craft. Thanks, again, for your words of encouragement, Chef; I truly appreciate you taking the time to reach out.

  2. Dana Rose says:

    Penelope, congratulations and best wishes for your next chapter. I wish you peace and many blessings! I know this is a bittersweet time… you have been a true leader & will continue to be in this unique industry.

    All the best-

    Dana Rose

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