Spring Run Golf Club offers “blindfold dinners” that emphasize other culinary aspects beyond presentation.
Chefs are often hyper-focused on plate presentation, believing that members first “eat with their eyes.” But what happens when sight is removed?
Steve Joynt, Executive Chef of Spring Run Golf Club, in Estero, Fla., found out by offering a series of “blindfold dinners,” where members quite literally eat without their eyes.
“The idea was first conceived in 2007, when my daughter and I attended one of the first blind dinners offered in London,” says Joynt, who has been with Spring Run GC since 1998. “The dinner was hosted to increase awareness of the obstacles the blind face daily. The experience was fascinating and enlightening. In a room full of strangers, social bonds were quickly formed, as we began to rely on other senses to guide us.”
|THE GOAL: To host “blindfold dinners” at Spring Run GC that emphasize other culinary aspects beyond presentation.
THE PLAN: Executive Chef Steve Joynt builds menus featuring dishes that are easy to eat without sight, but are clever enough to be both delicious and unexpected. Members and guests experience tastes of each course twice—first with a blindfold, and second without. Between duplicates, they are invited to “guess” what they just ate. Joynt then reveals the true dish and allows them to enjoy it again (this time with their vision fully restored).
THE PAYOFF: The sell-out events generate a lot of buzz, as members are excited to participate in a unique dining experience that engages their senses in new and unusual ways. The dinners also challenge the Spring Run GC staff to think outside the box and come up with dishes that wouldn’t typically find their way to an a la carte menu.
Joynt saw an obvious opportunity to bring that instant camaraderie back to his club and began researching how Spring Run GC could host its own variation of the theme. More than a decade later, Joynt has successfully executed three blindfold dinners, and now has the process down to a science.
He begins by formulating a menu that challenges the palate and incorporates tricky shapes, feels, textures and temperatures. “My ultimate goal is to give the member or guest a new appreciation for how food tastes, instead of how it looks,” he says.
His first challenge is making the food easy to eat blindfolded. “We serve three small bites for each course, so it’s easier to navigate,” says Joynt.
Guests are instructed to pick up the bites from right to left, following a clockwise pattern. The first bite is picked up from the 3 o’clock position on a plate, the second at 6 o’clock, and the last at 9 o’clock. “This format has made it much simpler for diners and has become our standard operating procedure for a ‘user-friendly’ experience,” says Joynt.
Between courses, Joynt offers clues to the members about what will be served next. “After members finish each course, they remove their blindfolds and guess the three items they just ate,” he says. “Once all guesses are collected, I present a duplicate course and explain each bite.
“It’s a lot of fun for the guests when we reveal the menu and they can share with each other what they thought they were eating,” he adds. “Some of our foodie members are spot on. At the most recent event, one member guessed 17 out of 21 bites correctly.”
Reservations for Spring Run’s blindfold dinners are kept under 40, and the meal generally consists of between five and seven courses. “Planning the meal is invigorating and presents many challenges for myself and my staff,” says Joynt. “But it’s good for us creatively because it forces us to rely on other senses and balance the fun of the experience with a level of professionalism that won’t insult or embarrass anyone.”