Melinda Burrows, CEC, CCA, didn’t let 2020’s challenges slow her drive to continue to pursue her unique culinary approach both personally and at her Springfield, Mo. club, while also keeping her team interested and engaged.
Staying engaged over the last 12 months has created many challenges and opportunities for the best of our chefs in the industry. Executive Chef Melinda Burrows, CEC, CCA, from Hickory Hills Country Club in Springfield, Mo., has been working hard with her team to stay engaged and to grow, while at the same time focusing on faith for the future.
Burrows has no plans to stop, from running a farm that supplies the club with eggs and hogs, to pursuing higher certification levels.
C+RB: 2020 taught us many lessons. What is your number one takeaway from last year?
Burrows: Resilience. You must be a survivor, being a leader, having faith; that’s an action and a decision. I learned to roll with the punches and at the same time stand firm in what I believe.
C+RB: After a unique sales year, how have you approached budgeting for 2021?
Burrows: We are halfway through our fiscal year; we will make it to March 31, 2020 and beyond with our fiscal responsibility and positive vision. Hickory CC is in line for a solid financial recovery in our next FY 2021/2022, with six weddings on the books and rebookings from cancelled events from 2020.
One of the most significant challenges has been the insane amount of paper goods we have been consuming because of to-go containers, gloves and masks. We will probably triple our budget by the end of the fiscal year.
I am delighted that the team has not been majorly impacted, as we are doing everything we can to keep them full-time. Regardless we remain hopeful and optimistic and will review the reality of that around the end of March, and make adjustments as necessary.
C+RB: You have a unique passion that relates beautifully to our profession. What sets your culinary program apart from others?
Burrows: One of our program highlights is that my husband Darren and I have a hobby farm and raise a couple of hogs each year for the club. We use that meat from my farm in our restaurant and at my farm-to-table dinners.
This year, we focused on Spain and produced a wide variety of Spanish dishes. We used hogs that we raised from 35-pound weaners and ended up with four halves, which we butchered as a team. My team gets to experience whole animal butchery.
Additionally, I know our Marketing Manager, our membership and the team love to be a part of the story. They enjoy saying that “Our Chef” has a hobby farm where she and her husband raise animals, and provide eggs and small quantities of herbs and produce for the club.
It is a unique piece for prospective members. It is also very responsible. I collect the compostable scraps from the kitchen stations, and they go back to my farm. Instead of going into the trash, it goes to the garden compost or for the chickens and the pigs.
I like that we get to do those things because we live in a world of convenience, leading to a lack of skill. I believe my team appreciates the value and the hard work that goes into the front end. It takes a lot of work to take care of that animal and raise it. Then it is here feeding the club, and it makes a full circle, leaving a great feeling of satisfaction for everyone.
C+RB: What have you been doing to keep yourself, your team and your members interested and engaged through all we’ve been through in the past year or so?
Burrows: I worked with the American Culinary Federation to develop the Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA) exam, a project that ran from 2019 into 2020, where I became a part of the task-analysis committee.
We started in Kansas City and created the task analysis for the new CCA exam. Later, it led to writing the items that will show up among the 100 randomly selected questions for the exam itself. Trial testing followed. I was a part of all three of those portions to get the exam up and running, and now the test is live. I found that a fascinating process to go through. It kept my interest for a large portion of the last year.
A primary goal in my life is passing the Certified Master Chefs exam. For that reason, I am focusing on preparing for it. I started competing, and I had planned a whole trip to do so. I began my journey by spending a day with Master Chef Tim Bucci, a Culinary Arts Professor at Joliet (Ill.) Junior College. I worked on garde manger with him in his class, and then I drove to Michigan to do a freestyle segment practice run with other Master Chefs, including Shawn Loving, Jeffrey Gabriel and Brian Beland, and some other candidates.
This trip happened before the shutdown, and Schoolcraft College was forthcoming with feedback. After that, I connected with Dorsey College and competed in a category F-1 and an F-4, earning two bronze medals. I had not yet competed up to that point in my life, but Chef Loving said if you want to prepare effectively for the CMC exam, do F-category competitions, they are excellent practice. I wanted feedback, and if you are not open to criticism, how could you possibly know what you need to change?
In the same vein of preparation, I started taking the online program that you offer, Raising The Bar 2.0. There is currently a group of thirteen of us in the program; we meet weekly and have coursework along with the online content. I want to be the best cook that I can be, and that has been an excellent resource for my growth. Recently we revisited fundamentals, and that helped me recognize that having those kinds of conversations during the exam would not lead to a successful taking.
Going through another recent lesson, I was reminded of one of my chefs from cooking school: Chef John Lewis, an older English man, who said, “A gravy is made, and a sauce is created.” I remember the words so clearly. That differentiation has always stuck with me about the higher level of cooking, versus not working to develop flavor.
I am motivated to pursue all of this because I feel like I am trying to beat the clock, because time never stops. And as I have been working on certification, I have been pushing my team toward certifications as well.
MELINDA BURROWS, CEC, CCA
CURRENT POSITION: Executive Chef, Hickory Hills Country Club, Springfield, Mo.
• Executive Chef, Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel and Hilton Promenade at Branson (Mo.)
• Campus Executive Chef, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan.
• Executive Chef and Director of Dining Services, Morrison Management Specialists, California PEO Home, Alhambra, Calif.
• Catering Manager, Morrison Management Specialists, Motion Picture Television Fund, Woodland Hills, Calif.
• Your Personal Chef catering, Hollywood, Calif.
• Executive Chef, Special Occasions Catering
• Ecole de Gastronomie de Française Ritz-Escoffier, Paris, France; Diplome de Patisserie and Diplome Cesar Ritz
• Certificate of Achievement, Seattle Central Community College Culinary Arts program, Seattle, Wash.
Getting Personal with Chef Burrows
Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, of course—I cook.
What’s your go-to book?
Jacques Pepin’s “La Technique”
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
My grandmother’s flour tortillas and making tacos with them.
What’s your favorite thing to eat?
Homemade pizza with our prosciutto, goat cheese, kalamata olives and yellow onions.
What’s your best seller on the menu?
Favorite fat to cook with?
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be, and why?
My best friend, Susan Turman, because if we had been together on the day she took her life, things might have turned out differently.
What’s your most commonly used phrase?
“Let’s do this!”
“You’re kidding me?!”
“I would like to speak with you in my office.”
(I try not use expletives)
What’s your favorite piece of kitchen equipment?
My 8-inch Messermeister Chef Knife
Sous Vide Pork Chop
YIELD: 6 chops
2 cups water
1 oz. sea salt
2 ozs. brown sugar
2 ozs. cider vinegar
6 ea., 10-oz. bone-in pork chops, frenched
6 pats butter
1 tbsp. herb mix (1:1 chive/parsley, 1 per chop)
1. Mix water, salt, sugar, and vinegar together, making sure the sugar and salt completely dissolve in the brine. Set aside.
2. To assemble, place one chop, one pat of butter, and 1 tbsp. of house herb mix into a cryovac bag. Then add one ¼ cup of brine. Be sure to keep bags upright, so they don’t spill. One chop, and its accompaniments, per bag. Once filled, seal the bags with the VacMaster.
3. Sous vide at 145 degrees for 1 hour, being sure to rotate chops in water once during the hour.
4. COOL IMMEDIATELY in a single layer on a sheet tray.
5. Remove prepared chop and grill to desired doneness.
Submitted by Melinda Burrows, Executive Chef, Hickory Hills CC, Springfield, Mo.
Gerald Ford, CMC, is a contributing Chef Editor for Club + Resort Chef and a contributor to Club + Resort Business. He is also the Founder and Culinary Director of Legit Culinary Concepts, an organization that aims to improve the quality of life for chefs and culinarians around the world by providing tools and systems tested and developed with the experience of a master craftsman. Previously, he was the Executive Chef of The Ford Plantation (Richmond Hill, Ga.).