After his club’s annual shutdown, Grosse Pointe YC’s Executive Chef Colby Newman is eager to get back in the kitchen and share his love of food.
I was right. Even though I got a lot accomplished, our annual club shut down here at Gross Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club went way too fast.
Before the shutdown, I thought it might be easy to get distracted, so my sous chef and I planned every day ahead of time to keep us on track and make the most of a less busy time. Shutdowns are still new to me and I didn’t know what to expect. Having everything planned in advance allowed me to get everything on my list done—and have some much needed extra time at home with my family.
During the shutdown, my sous chef and I were able to tour the facilities of two of our vendors—one in Pennsylvania and the other in Detroit. On a normal work day, it might be possible for me to quickly get a local tour, but there’s no way my sous chef and I would be able to experience it together. Being able to share this opportunity with him was important to me, especially since we were able to take our time and not have to worry about what could be going on back in our kitchen.
I like to have a close relationship with my vendors. And being able to see what how they produce our products gave me a much deeper appreciation for the role they play in helping us to deliver the best quality to our members. Over the course of my career, I’ve toured many facilities, but my sous chef never has. He loved having the chance to do this and I’m happy that I was able to show him a different side of what it means to be an executive chef. It’s not just about being able to cook and create menus. You have to understand the ordering process and know where your products are coming from to provide our members with the highest quality while also staying within budget.
I was also able to do a little research and development. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I ate at 5 restaurants (2 in Ohio, 2 in Seattle, 1 in Detroit). If not for shut down, it would probably take me over 6 months to be able to eat at that many restaurants. Trying new restaurants is so much more than just having the chance to eat somewhere different. To me, it’s also about seeing the environment created, their menu setup, how their servers interact with guests, and their plating techniques. My job as an executive chef is to also provide our members with an amazing experience—not just great food. So I like being able to see how other restaurants evolving and incorporating any interesting ideas or techniques into our club environment.
The Chef to Chef Conference in Seattle was once again another great experience. I enjoyed learning from other people in the club industry and catching up with other chefs I’ve met from previous conferences. I also made a lot of new connections this year. I’ve already had emails going back and forth about being a guest chef at other clubs as well as scheduling other chefs for a guest chef dinner at GPYC. Getting to eat at other restaurants in the Conference’s host city is definitely a highlight of the conference for me. It’s a short trip, but it helps me reevaluate any ideas I have and leaves me eager to come back and get to work.
I returned to work soon after I returned from Seattle, but my general manager made it clear that I should use this time to get a little extra rest and enjoy the time with my family before our busiest season starts. There were days I was able to leave the office a little early, but finish my work at home just so I could be around my wife and son. Getting to come home almost five hours earlier than I normally do was an adjustment for all of us—especially my wife, Lauren. She’d rush around making sure she finished her to-do list before I got home so we could enjoy this time together as a family.
As far as having a normal Saturday and Sunday weekend, we both kind of hated it. Between being surrounded by so many more people or waiting in long lines, we much prefer having Monday and Tuesday days off. I was also finally able to make it to not one, but two Red Wing hockey games. The first game our Commodore invited me, our GM and our F&B director. I had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to take my wife. Then she surprised me with tickets for the day after we got back from the Chef to Chef Conference. It was so nice and relaxing to be able to have this time to spend with others and not have to worry about what was happening at work.
I always try to be accommodating of my staff so they can spend time with their families. Unfortunately, that sometimes means I have to be at work more. But now that my son is starting to get older, that means there are days I only see him for 30 minutes. Shut down has allowed me to witness a lot more of his day and helped me realize that I need to be home whenever my schedule allows. So, I told my staff that when possible, I’m going to take an hour in the afternoon to go home and spend a little extra time with my wife and son. And if I can’t make it, they’ll be able to visit me, which is one of the reasons we decided to live closer to the club.
Being able to spend so much extra time at home the past few weeks made me realize why I work so hard to provide for them. Even though my wife constantly sends me videos and pictures, I still miss a lot of small moments during the day. But, my wife gets to be with him every single minute and I’m grateful that all my hard work allows her that opportunity. It’s really hard to leave in the mornings and I sometimes feel a little jealous, but the fact that at least one of us never has to miss a single moment of our son’s day helps ease the pain a little.
My wife asked me the other day what I loved most about being a chef. She asked if it was the joy that cooking and being in the kitchen brought me, or if it was sharing my talent with others and seeing them enjoy it. I said it was both. They both bring different feelings for me and help make up why I love what I do. Shut down was a nice break, but I miss those feelings. I’m ready to be back cooking and sharing my love for food with our members and my staff. I might be looking forward to winter shut down again once our busy summer season is over, but for now, I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen.