The Greenbrier put on another great show to revive even the weariest chefs.
What happens when you gather 300 club chefs at The Greenbrier Resort? Great food, of course. And if that weren’t reason enough to make your way to the resort that’s tucked into the scenic Appalachians in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., the 2nd Annual Club Chef ’s Institute (CCI) offered two days of lively new seminars to once again help rejuvenate club chefs at the end of another long summer season.
Just as with last year’s inaugural CCI, this year’s conference kicked off with a welcome dinner that featured local flavors. The Sunday night barbeque at Kate’s Mountain Lodge, one of the Greenbrier’s many properties, gathered everyone together for some down-home cooking and a chance to get acquainted with local artisans and their craft.
The “simplicity” of the food, though, didn’t fool anyone; this was no ordinary backyard barbeque, either in what was served or how it was presented. Clearly, a lot of time and effort went into preparing the meal, and at a seminar the next morning, the chefs learned the details behind the technique for “long and slow” barbeque cooking (several hours over low heat).
The next seminars provided an update on healthy eating—good fats vs. bad, good carbs vs. bad—and on how to incorporate ethnic flavors into everyday cuisine. These two themes are thought to be front ofmind for the majority of diners, and by acknowledging them, chefs can ensure that their clubs stay in favor with members. To drive home these points, everyone then took a break for lunch to enjoy an African-themed buffet— complete with antelope and warthog.
The first afternoon gave the chefs a chance to watch the Greenbrier’s Chef de Cuisine at The Tavern Room, Richard Rosendale, demonstrate different ways to cook lamb. The catch? He used cuts other than the rack and showed how to make the less-used lamb cuts match the quality that many think only the rack can produce.
The first evening’s activities were twofold: eating (of course) and gambling (why not?). Five certified master chefs (out of only 58 nationwide), a certified master pastry chef (one of 13 nationwide) and Rosendale (well on his way to certification) set up stations and got to work serving up several small plates each.
In a skilled display of just how many flavors could be presented in a dish no larger than the palm of the hand, the chefs—Edward Leonard, Joachim Buchner, Peter Timmons, Ferdinand Metz, Hartmut Handke, Rosendale and Frederic Monti—struggled to keep up with the demand for their creations. Ostrich eggs made an appearance, and foie gras was brûléed. It seemed that nothing was off-limits.
At the far end of the room, desserts were artfully displayed in tiers atop white hydrangeas. Casino-themed sugar sculptures drew attention, as the chefs wandered around snapping photos to take back to their own clubs for inspiration.
Once the crowd had its fill of the small plates, the casino tables began to fill.With the “$10,000” that each attendee was given, the chefs played for a return trip to next year’s conference (October 29-November 2, 2006). The top three money winners at the end of the night were given certificates to use toward next year’s CCI.
The second day was also full of seminars and demonstrations. The morning gave chefs a chance to contemplate their personal finances and the relationships among a club’s chef, general manager and Board of Directors. The afternoon included a lesson in food and wine pairing, as well as a bourbon tasting. And the classroom portion of the Institute experience ended with a pastry demonstration by the Greenbrier’s Executive Pastry Chef, Frederic Monti.
An Ending Worthy of Hollywood The final group dinner was truly an event to remember— and many of the chefs in attendance are no doubt already planning to apply some of the night’s special touches to events at their own club. Themed “A Night at the Oscars,” the event was the most formal yet for the group.To instill a sense of collegiality among the club chefs, the Greenbrier provided each chef with a white chef ’s jacket emblazoned with logos to commemorate the Institute. A red carpet led to the ballroom, and the “Academy Awards” theme continued once inside, as towering centerpieces adorned each table and the stage was set with life-sized “Oscar” statues.
Carolyn O’Neil, former food and travel correspondent for CNN, emceed the event. Menus graced the tables, but no one would be choosing their fare on this night. Instead, each course listed three “nominated dishes” (from a contest held prior to the event) that were announced by O’Neil while a spotlight shined on the chefs who had created them.
As the winning chef was announced and brought to the stage to accept an “Oscar,” the winning dish was brought out by an army of servers who worked with precision to serve the entire group in a timely fashion. This went on for five courses—and what went on to support the dinner behind the scenes, in the ballroom next door, was an equally spectacular production. Instead of plating the dishes in advance and holding them in a warmer, plating happened on the spot, as two conveyor belts helped keep the group on pace. Then Peter Timmons, the Greenbrier’s Executive Chef and a Certified Master Chef, put the final touches to each plate before it was taken out to be served.
In all, it was a truly entertaining way to end another successful conference. No wonder 40% of attendees at this year’s CCI were returnees—a number that’s sure to rise after word gets around about this year’s spectacular show. C&RB
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