Edward Leonard, CMC, Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef at The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.), lives only to cook.
One of my old chefs, Michael J. Pillarella, CEC, from the Wianno Club in Osterville, Mass., came to Polo last week to recruit. We said a big hello, gave the chef hug and I walked him around at the event we had and showed him some new concepts.
He shook his head and said, “Chef, I do not know how you keep doing it, the stuff you come up with, the toys in action. You have achieved it all why are you are not slowing down?”
Prior to this comment, another good chef friend, Brian Beland, CMC, Executive Chef/Director of Food and Beverage of the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., said, “Chef, you have a few years on us and yet it seems you are always a plate ahead of us.”
I gave these comments some thought later that night. Realizing things have changed and to be successful you adapt to the times the demographic of new generations that now work in the industry. The challenging part is managing those who do not possess the heart and soul of cookery. Even a number of chefs do not have that true unbridled love and passion for the craft anymore.
For me, it never gets tiring. It is the most wonderful feeling to wake up every day and look forward to going to work, being in my kitchens, mentoring, talking innovation, tasting and providing a simple thing called food to our members.
I will sit for hours on end writing menus and thinking of new concepts. When I am, my blood gets flowing, my inner passion flares as I picture the dish I am putting on the menu or envision the presentation of the pastry for the special party.
I am consumed by food, cuisine the art of cookery. It is why I am a chef. And it is why all my life I have struggled at times. I have sacrificed personally and financially to follow my dreams and my pursuit of being a chef. That had made a profound difference.
I count my blessing to have a job I love and the ability to teach and train culinarians to get them on the path of success. We also ensure the path of creating the member experience through our food.
My mentors, Ferdinand Metz, Fritz Sonnenschmidt, Daniel Boulud, and Andre Soultner impressed me with their passion and commitment for the craft. They all took the time to have an impact on a young cook named Edward Leonard.
What happens in a professional kitchen is really a remarkable sight.
In eight hours, we get ready for 200 or 300 meals of the highest quality while orchestrating a brigade of cooks and chefs to follow through on your vision, philosophy and count on them each night to make your members happy.
The craft of cookery and pastry is truly special and to have the ability to take raw ingredients and transform them into dishes and products of dining pleasure for members and guest is priceless.
The ability to be passionate about the 5-course wine dinner, buffets and making a daily apple pie is the true love of our craft. It’s what makes us not just chefs, but club chefs.
The love and passion one has when in a kitchen both cuisine and pastry along with the ability to have fun while getting a rush from all things culinary is that secret ingredient for success.
To sum this up I borrowed the earlier phrase from my Italian friends in Italy that taught me years ago “Some cooks live only to cook. Other cooks cook to make a living.”
There’s a big difference in the two—and the food they produce.