Executive Chef Eric Shelton brings a variety of past cooking experiences to bring a new menu and programs to the club.
The Salina (Kan.) Journal recently profiled Eric Shelton, the new Executive Chef of Salina (Kan.) Country Club, who moved from Dallas, Texas for the position.
Shelton’s desire to be in the kitchen started more than three decades ago in Mystic, Conn., where he grew up with seven siblings.
“My mom sort of cultivated her own little garden with strawberries, corn, some of everything,” Shelton said. “The worst part of being out there was doing all the chores to maintain it. I was really getting an informal education being able to witness what she was doing then and didn’t even know it.”
Along with his mother’s garden, Shelton got his love for food from television. “My mom would watch ‘The Victory Garden’ and Julia Child’s ‘The French Chef.’ I learned sort of the artistry of cooking from watching these shows.”
Shelton said he was encouraged by his mother to attend vocational school instead of public school. During his final year at Grasso Technical School in Groton, Conn., Shelton won the top chef award. That experience led Shelton to attend Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., where he received his associate and bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts and food service management, respectively, the Journal reported.
Following graduation, he took his first professional job at an Olive Garden restaurant and his next stop was at a Wyndham Hotel in New Jersey.
In 1998, Shelton became the Executive Chef at the five-star Wyndham hotel in downtown Dallas. In 2003, his wife,Emily, “got the opportunity to open up her own real estate company in Austin, so we picked up and moved there,” Shelton said.
In 2007, they moved back to Dallas, where Shelton became Executive Chef of “M” Dining at the Music Hall at Fair Park and was featured on “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Shelton would cater and volunteer various events for the next year, including many with Cafe Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training facility that takes at-risk youth who have spent time in juvenile facilities and provides them with intensive culinary, job and life-skill training, the Journal reported.
“Dallas is a chef scene, like it’s a chef-driven community,” he said. “As far as my job and cooking, there were an abundance of specialty ingredients and useful things that you have unlimited access to. Access to ranchers, farmers, everyone. They’re here in Salina also, but I have to source them out all over again.
“It’s very important to get out and connect with people and organizations in this community,” Shelton said. “This is already a pretty united community, so I’m sure I’ll be able to work with others and build strong partnerships.”
Shelton accepted the job as Executive Chef of the Salina Country Club in mid-August and is looking forward “to elevating the dining experience of the country club’s guest,” he said. “In order to do that, I have to introduce them to that new special ingredient, new twist, new flavor; something they’ve never had.”
Overseeing a growing staff of 15, Shelton said the goal is to “train the staff and get everyone to work at optimal level. The goal is educating through cooking, the Journal reported.
“We’re going to bring in new products, have a positive work environment full of people who love what they do, which will turn into quality food and good times for our guest.
“First of all, you have to give people something that they’re used to. At least 75 to 80 percent of what they’re eating should be familiar to them,” Shelton said. “The rest should be to educate them. I want people to say, ‘I’ve never had this,’ or ‘I’ve never had it like this before.’ ”
Shelton is in the process of planning a new menu for 2016 and “will make updates to that menu every three months,” he said.
Various events including wine dinners, farm dinners and “different events that get people to come out and enjoy themselves will be a part of the new year. It’s going to be exciting,” Shelton said.