C+RB’s 11th annual Chef to Chef Conference shattered attendance records and dished up great food, education and memories for all who made their way to New Orleans.
This year, for the first time in its 11-year history, Club + Resort Business’ Chef to Chef Conference made a return visit to a host city when it was held March 10-12 in New Orleans.
But it was hardly a case of “been there, done that” for those who attended the 11th annual Conference, even if they were among those who had also gone to Chef to Chef when it was held in New Orleans in 2012. (And a good many of this year’s registrants didn’t fit that description, with total attendance soaring to a new record of just under 400, more than double the turnout for the Conference’s first trip to the Big Easy.)
A host of new events and features also made sure that the second time around would be a fresh experience even for those who had been to the first New Orleans Conference—or to any, or many, of the other previous ten.
SEEN ‘ROUND THE WORLD
Even during setup and registration on Sunday afternoon, March 10, early arrivals to the Conference had the opportunity to get a head-start on soaking up extra knowledge by attending educational sessions presented by several of this year’s thirteen Chef to Chef sponsors.
By evening, the 2019 Conference’s record crowd was out in full force, gathering first for an opening reception and then filling the ballroom of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for a plated dinner prepared by the hotel’s culinary staff that featured Lamb Shank with Papa Tom’s Grits and Mirliton Ratatouille as the entree, and a Chocolate Decadence dessert.
The dinner was then capped by the captivating keynote address, “Possibilities: The Life of a Chef,” delivered by John D. Folse, CEC, AAC.
After being introduced by Charles Carroll, CEC, AAC, HGT, Executive Chef of River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, Chef Folse, who is credited with taking “a taste of Louisiana” worldwide through the success of his cornerstone Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant property and subsequent business ventures of Chef John Folse & Company, enthralled the Conference attendees by tracing his journey from humble roots to become one of the nation’s leading culinary entrepreneurs.
While providing the entertaining details of his “Cajun man’s journey” from a trapper’s cabin in rural St. James Parish, La., where he first learned how to harvest food from Louisiana’s “swamp floor pantry,” Chef Folse also provided inspirational messages in describing his determination to build his business by doggedly exploring seemingly impossible opportunities—including the perseverance and daring required to start the first American restaurants in China and the then-Soviet Union, which Folse developed ahead of the historic talks between presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Chef Folse’s address also provided inspiration to many more outside of the Hilton ballroom, as for the first time the Chef to Chef keynote address was live-streamed so that others who could not make it to New Orleans could also get a taste of the Conference excitement. The feed of Chef Folse’s speech through Facebook has already received over 1,000 additional views and is still available (go to www.cheftochefconference.com/2019-chef-to-chef-conference-materials/ for the link to the Chef Folse video, as well as all other Conference presentation materials). “I could listen to Chef Folse all day long….thank you!” one online viewer commented in appreciation for the opportunity to tune in to the keynote address remotely.
The 2019 Chef to Chef Conference featured the strongest assemblage of presenting club chefs, including four Certified Master Chefs, in the event’s 11-year history. And New Orleans attendees were immersed in the strength of the agenda immediately as the first day of full sessions began on Monday, March 11, starting with the presentation, “Looking Closer: Staying Focused on the Key Culinary Details Amid Fast-Changing Trends and Technology,” by Russell Scott, CMC, Culinary Director of The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. Chef Scott walked attendees through the importance of being precise—and the dangers of being imprecise—for basic culinary skills such as uniformity, utilization, cooking temperatures and “doneness.” His presentation also included a cooking demonstration of an oil-poached salmon dish inspired by his experience with the Culinary Olympic team.
Chef Scott was followed by the second of four Certified Master Chefs to present in New Orleans: J. Kevin Walker, CMC, AAC, Executive Chef of Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga. Chef Walker’s session, “Integrating Classic International Dishes into Everyday Club Menus,” filled the Hilton ballroom with tempting scents as he prepared dishes including Rabbit and Snail Paella (the national dish of Valencia, Spain), Braised Beef Braciole, and Braciole-Style Piquillo Peppers. The temptation was strong enough, in fact, to drive many attendees to taste of the paella dish (see photo, opposite page) during the break that followed Walker’s session.
After the break, Charles Carroll led a double session that begin with his own presentation on “The Chef as Entrepreneur,” during which he walked attendees through his own journey to a higher career profile and increased earning opportunities that has included writing books; hosting and participating in podcasts, radio and television shows; being part of Culinary Olympic team competitions, and organizing initiatives such as “Operation HOT (Honoring Our Troops).” Returning as a Chef to Chef presenter for the third time to deliver his special brand of inspiration and motivation, Chef Carroll’s takeaway messages included encouragements such as “be patient, be flexible with your vision, and be OK with life bumping you along” in providing attendees with advice on how to guide and direct their personal growth.
After his own presentation was complete, the Chef to Chef stage was set up for Chef Carroll to serve as host of a live talk-show format for an “Insights into Greatness” session designed to provide further inspiration and guidance, from outside experts, to help Conference attendees find their paths to maximum personal and professional fulfillment.
The on-stage guest for the session was Chef Isaac Toups, a successful New Orleans restauranteur (Toups’ Meatery) who has also been a contestant on “Top Chef” and is now involved with the filming of a new Food Network television show. Toups is also the author of “Chasing the Gator,” a book that includes a foreword by New Orleans culinary legend Emeril Lagasse.
A second guest for the session was Steve Olsher, who was beamed in from Los Angeles via Skype. Olsher, known as “America’s foremost reinvention expert,” is the author of “What Is Your WHAT: Discover the ONE Amazing Thing You Were Born to Do,” and the founder and host of the Reinvention Radio podcast network.
After Monday’s lunch break, attendees reconvened for another demonstration session, “Making the Traditional Trendy: Putting a Contemporary Spin on Classic Desserts,” presented by Jennifer Kopp, CEPC, Executive Pastry Chef at The Metropolitan Club of The City of Washington (D.C.). Chef Kopp provided an abundance of tips on modern display styles and props, plate designs, and presentations that can create new appeal and excitement for cakes, chocolates and other pastry favorites. She also shared her recipes for Vanilla Panna Cotta and Salted Caramel Milk.
The last educational session on Monday’s agenda featured another Certifed Master Chef, Joseph Leonardi, CMC, Director of Culinary Operations at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. In his presentation, “Behind the Plate-Up: Motivating and Challenging Your Kitchen Team While Keeping It Focused on the Common Goal,” Leonardi emphasized the importance of being able to accept and recover from failure. After he originally failed his CMC exam, Leonardi related, he himself was doing a poor job of handling the disappointment, and only gathered the resolve to try again after getting a wake-up call from his staff.
The remainder of Monday was devoted to a new format for the Chef to Chef Conference’s popular Mystery Basket Cookoff. The competition was expanded to include four teams of club chefs and held in the main ballroom, with the Chef to Chef Conference’s National Conference Coordinator Jerry Schreck, Executive Chef of Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa., being joined by the Golf Channel’s Kira Kazantsev to provide running commentary as attendees watched the action on video screens. The April 2019 issue of Club + Resort Chef, mailed with this issue of Club + Resort Business, includes a full report on the Conference’s new and improved “Iron Chef” competition.
The conference then shifted off-site for an exclusive popup dining event at Pythian Market (see photo above), to enjoy the venue’s unique collection of food stalls and bars with specialty drinks, before venturing out to further explore the New Orleans culinary scene on the Conference’s traditional open night for dinner.
When attendees came back (after being given a little extra morning “recovery” time) for the Conference’s final day, Executive Chef Nelson Millan of San Antonio (Texas) Country Club and Executive Chef Richard Jallet of Baltimore (Md.) Country Club got things off to a rousing start with their spirited session, “Be Our Guest! How Guest-Chef Events Can Invite Members, Guests and Staff to Memorable Occasions.”
Chefs Millan and Jallet shared the details behind successful guest-chef events that they have both held at their own clubs and also participated in at other clubs, and emphasized how these undertakings can be “win-wins” all around, both for club members and guests, and for all of the culinary staffs that are involved.
In the next session, K. Scott Craig, CEC, CCA, WCMC, Executive Chef of Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte, N.C,. presented on “Reinventing Your Snack Bar and Other Satellite Dining Venues.” Details of Chef Craig’s experience in reviving what had been an underperforming and “overwhelmed” satellite outlet at the Myers Park pool through a $75,000 overhaul can be found in the April 2019 issue of Club + Resort Chef
Craig was followed by the Conference’s fourth CMC presenter, Lawrence McFadden, CMC, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of The Union Club in Cleveland, Ohio. In discussing “Food & Beverage for Today’s Luxury Customer,” McFadden shared his experiences and insights from a career path that has spanned chef, F&B and now top management positions, and has included stops at a wide variety of property types and locations across the globe.
Chef Instructor Daniel Pliska, CEC, AAC of Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo. (and formerly Executive Chef/Assistant Manager of the University Club of Missouri) followed with a presentation on “The Power of Synergy: Combining Culinary School Education and Professional Kitchen Training” that included demonstrations of recipes that included Smoked Salmon Crepe Gateau, Viennese Apple Strudels and Blitz Puff Pastry (Pliska is also the author of “Pastry & Dessert Techniques”).
For the first afternoon session, “Changing Member Culture through Health and Wellness.” Michael Ponzio, Executive Chef of Medinah (Ill.) Country Club, outlined the many unique steps his suburban Chicago club has taken in launching a comprehensive initiative that has included introducing blended drinks and healthy bowls to help increase sales at the pool by 20%; on-site, branded maple syrup and honeybee programs; an elaborate chef’s garden and USDA-certified chicken coop for homegrown eggs; and much more.
For the Conference’s final educational session, Jerry Schreck teamed with David Daddezio, Executive Chef of Vicmead Hunt Club/Bidermann Golf Course in Wilmington, Del., to present “Out-of-the-Box Outdoor Events and Going Chaferless,” featuring many more of the unique buffet and event presentations and concepts that were highlighted in the “Chef to Chef” interview feature with Daddezio in the January 2019 issue of C+RB (“Inspired Performance”).
Conference attendees then dispersed into six smaller rooms for the always-popular “Chef to Chef Live” breakout sessions, which this year featured a new twist, with “storytellers” rotating through the breakout rooms to share successful experiences with the groups. Club chefs who helped to stimulate the lively discussions that followed included Todd Walline, Blue Hills Country Club, Kansas City, Mo.; John Cornely, Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club; Greg Volle, Country Club of Roswell (Ga.); Jason McClain, The Jonathan Club, Los Angeles; Carpiu Chereches, Merion Golf Club; and John Wagner and Greg Garbacz, both of Sunnybrook Golf Club, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
Attendees then gathered back in the main ballroom for a quick thank-you for their attendance, best wishes for the coming year, and wrapup announcements that included unveiling the new Club + Resort Chef brand and revealing the scheduled dates and location for the 12th Annual Chef to Chef Conference: Charlotte, N.C., March 1-3, 2020. C+RB