This Chef to Chef Q&A is a little different than normal. This month’s conversation is with a chef I worked with for seven years: David Daddezio, who is now the Executive Chef at Vicmead Hunt Club and Bidermann Golf Course in Wilmington, Del.
Chef Daddezio was with me at Merion Golf Club from 2006-2013. You truly don’t know the impact a fellow brigade member has until you see what he or she leaves behind. Many of the concepts and recipes David created or implemented are still in place in our kitchen five years later.
For our members at Merion during the 2013 U.S. Open, when we had to serve 3,000 to 4,000 items per day, Chef Daddezio executed a marketplace-style, grab-and-go concept in a large tent attached to the clubhouse. Many area club managers from the Philadelphia Vicinity Club Managers Association who volunteered during the Open observed David’s talent for moving product efficiently and for managing and motivating a staff. It was there and then that the offers of Executive Chef positions in the area came pouring in.
In just under three years at Vicmead Hunt Club, David has created a real positive buzz among the membership, with events that are truly unique. In this conversation, and also in a presentation that he and I will deliver on “Out of the Box Outdoor Events” at the 2019 Chef to Chef Conference in New Orleans in March, he provides insights into how, and from where, he draws inspiration for his many successful concepts.
C&RB David, having worked with you for seven years, I am not surprised how you constantly reinvent club events and at the same time create new and interesting ones. Can you tell us a little about where your inspiration comes from?
Daddezio I find myself searching Craigslist and other digital platforms to find materials to enhance working ideas or help me develop new ones. I am a very visual person, and inspiration can be triggered by a photograph or image I come across. Creative ideas are an ever-evolving part of developing member programming and menus for us. It benefits the membership and staff alike, as everyone gets engaged in the programming.
C&RB What types of items have you found on Craigslist that you’ve built events around?
Daddezio From antique wooden skis to wagon wheels, neat finds are always popping up. You never know what you’re going to see or where you’re going to see it. I’ve used an old wagon wheel to make a beautiful charcuterie table under glass, and an old truck ramp for an Argentinean street-food display.
C&RB Can you detail how you tie your beehives and tomato and herb gardens together with your Farm Table Dinners?
Daddezio The bee hives and gardens have really bolstered our culinary program, while promoting good stewardship of the environment. At our annual farm-to-table dinner, we paired the honey from our hives with locally produced cheeses, used it as a sweetener in our cider dressing, and had a grilled peach and honey empanada dessert that was terrific. The multiple varieties of tomatoes were just as they were from the vine, simply dressed with oil and salt. The herbs were stuffed in a 32-pound wild rockfish that we grilled whole tableside.
C&RB Interaction with members is and always has been a priority for you. How have you dialed up that chef-member communication since you’ve arrived at Vicmead?
Daddezio When writing menus for events and member programming, I am always looking for ways to include my team in interactive stations. Being on the front lines as much as I can balance it is a real focus. We are currently running a happy-hour program that I work from 5 to 6:30 p.m. that features a small-bite menu, drink specials, and an action station that changes weekly.
C&RB Many clubs have a challenge putting together a successful “Happy Hour” program. What advice can you offer for getting members to the club for a small bite, a cocktail and hopefully a dinner?
Daddezio I’ve found that with the vast bombardment of e-mails that members receive, a catchy subject line and a good photo, delivered the day of the event, can help to break through the endless white noise of the Internet. I send an e-mail on Sundays with some features of the week and a description of the happy-hour special. Then on the day of the happy hour, I send another note in the middle of the day, to try and capture the members who are looking for something to do.
C&RB Your Bidermann Golf Course is a part of Vicmead, but a couple of miles away. After two seasons, you have found it better to prep food there on site and have deliveries go directly there, instead of doing everything in your better-equipped main kitchen. Can you talk a little about why that has been more successful than shuttling finished product from the main clubhouse?
Daddezio It really all begins with feeling confident in your staff. I felt that diversifying our production and empowering employees with responsibilities would result in a better finished product and give internal advancement to deserving employees. The biggest challenge was storage of prepared foods—but through working with our purveyors on delivery options, we have solved most of those challenges. There are some days, though, when “walk-in Jenga” still happens! C&RB