C&RB’s sold-out 2012 Chef to Chef Conference in New Orleans featured everything from skinned gators to instant ice-sculpture designs.
Clubs with members who root against the University of Florida and whose chefs attended C&RB’s sold-out 2012 Chef to Chef Conference may see a new dish, Cajun Microwave Alligator, at pre- or post-game events this year.
The Conference, held at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans, March 4-6, began with a Sunday night dinner and a keynote speech by Mark Allison, Dean of Culinary Education at Johnson & Wales University, who detailed how the school is helping to shape the chefs of the future. The Conference program then kicked off the next morning with a demonstration on Cajun Cuisine by Colt Patin, Chef Instructor at the Louisiana Culinary Institute.
Chef Patin captivated the crowd of close to 200, which included 175 Executive Chefs and Food and Beverage Directors from leading club and resort properties in 35 states, plus the District of Columbia and Canada, as he demonstrated the versatility of gumbo and etouffee bases and how they can easily be integrated into club cuisine. Chef Patin then demonstrated special “Cajun microwave” preparations of crawfish and alligators, and drew a big laugh when he suggested the latter could be a great menu choice for a “Beat Florida” event.
Here are highlights of other Conference presentations (for more photos and details, see clubandresortbusiness.com):
• Wade Simpson, Executive Chef of Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Country Club, demonstrated the Chef’s Table concept he has successfully implemented at his club. Chairs were brought on stage to simulate an actual evening’s activity in his kitchen, chefs were called up to pose as “dining members,” and the food was spectacular, especially Simpson’s version of an upscale “BLT” (Blue Cheese, Lobster and Truffle) slider. Simpson promoted the Chef’s Table concept as the best way for chefs to demonstrate the full scope of their creative abilities, not only to others, but to themselves. “It’s the one place where no one can dictate to you what to make,” he noted.
• Jason Friendy, Executive Chef at the Resort of Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley, Calif. described some of the inventive techniques he has used to connect with the kids who come to his resort, including letting the kids themselves make the call on potential menu items, using a rating system of 1 (gross) to 4 (delicious). Friendy recommended www.choosemyplate.gov as an important resource for valuable nutritional information.
• In a presentation on bar/casual dining concepts, Sean Sennet, Executive Chef of River Hills Country Club in Lake Wylie, S.C. stressed the value of using membership demographics as a key “ingredient” in the menu engineering process.
Such study showed that River Hills’ membership included as many people with ties to the Northeast U.S. as to the South, leading to a well-received decision to include New England beer-battered cod and clam chowder on its new casual menu.
• To start the final day of the Conference, Vincent Horville, Executive Chef, The Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C., returned to the C2C stage to once again present impressive and easy-to-turn-out buffet enhancements, including 24-hour cured salmon and bacon-lobster cannoli hors d’ouevres. In a rousing finale, Chef Horville used isomalt sugar and ice cubes to created a crystallized ice design for unique table favors.
• For a demonstration on contemporary cuisine, Max Knoepfel, Executive Chef, Westchester Country Club, Rye, N.Y., showed examples of high-end plate designs and gave an overview of the “Farm to Table” concepts he has implemented at his club to showcase local farmers.
New Conference features for this year’s Monday-night reception included a spirited “mystery basket” competition among four attendee chef contestants. Steve Piamchuntar (far right), Executive Chef of the Stirling Club in Las Vegas, was voted the winner by audience balloting for his duck breast dish, edging out the other finalist, Joey Abitabilo, Executive Chef, Shelter Harbor Golf Club, Charlestown, R.I. A “culinary quizzo” game on food knowledge was also enjoyed during the reception; both activities will be enhanced and brought back in 2013.
• In a demo on wine/beer pairings, Jeff Strahl, F&B Director/Executive Chef of Glen Oaks Country Club, West Des Moines, Iowa, stressed how flavor profiles of specific dishes should dictate a pairing, not the center of the plate.
• Chris Loss, an expert on modernist cuisine and molecular gastronomy from the Culinary Institute of America, walked attendees through fascinating taste tests to show how taste buds really work. Dr. Loss also suggested strategies for sodium reduction and outlined the advantages of pressure cooking.
• Three club managers made management-oriented presentations. Bert Morales, Director of Operations for West Lawn Country Club in Augusta, Ga., provided practical suggestions for how chefs can deal more effectively with their owners, Boards and House committees. In a lively presentation filled with motivational video clips, Tom Wallace, Chief Executive Officer/General Manager of The Club at Mediterra, Naples. Fla., offered ideas for more effective staff mentoring and training. Wallace also related that he no longer refers to the “front” or “back of the house,” instead calling the two areas the “heart” and the “soul” of the culinary operation. Mark Michie, General Manager of Inverness Country Club, Birmingham, Ala., walked chefs through what their basic grasp of food-and-beverage financials should include.