Lessons learned from a Master during her apprenticeship at The Greenbrier still serve Andrea Griffith well as she brings dining distinction to another unique resort property, Pursell Farms.
Chef Andrea Griffith was trained as a young chef at the renowned Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., coming from the apprenticeship tree that has produced many great chefs around America. Griffith not only apprenticed at The Greenbrier, but opened The Greenbrier Sporting Club at the property as well.
For the past four years, Griffith has taken on a role in food-and-beverage leadership at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Ala., which includes FarmLinks Golf Club. This popular leisure resort property grew out of the Sylacauga Fertilizer Company, owned and operated by the Pursell family for three generations.
Current Position: Executive Chef, Pursell Farms, Sylacauga, Ala. (2012-Present)
Pursell Farms is serious about its “Farm to Fork” program, growing just about all that is served on property, and selling what’s not used on site at local farm markets. Co-founder and CEO David Pursell sought out Chef Griffith to take the property’s F&B to the next level, and that she has done.
We appreciate Chef Griffith taking the time to share her story, as well as offering to join us as a presenter at C&RB’s Ninth Annual Chef to Chef Conference in Atlanta, March 6-8, 2017.
C&RB: Chef, you went through the apprenticeship program at The Greenbrier and spent nearly a decade there all told, ultimately opening The Sporting Club there. What did you learn there alongside Master Chefs Peter Timmins and Rich Rosendale that you share with your culinary team today?
Griffith: PUSH! This was a term that became a lifestyle. Working with and for so many amazing chefs, this term became my purpose. I would strive daily to become better and work faster, smarter and more efficiently. I did so because I wanted to be like a sponge and absorb everything that these amazing teachers had to give.
Chef Timmins was one of a kind—he strived for perfection and would settle for nothing less. He made you visit that dark place inside of you—that place of doubt—and face it head on and push when you thought you where defeated. I try to instill that in my team daily, and ask that they dig in when times get tough and PUSH!
C&RB: Was this just ramped up during busier times, or a daily thing?
Griffith: “Push yourself” was not only for the line—he meant it in every aspect of your life! Push yourself to get up and be ready to tackle the day ahead. Push yourself to learn and continue to educate yourself. Push yourself to find the influence in your surroundings on a daily basis.
I remember so many days of being tired and ready to give up, and it seemed like magic—you would turn around and there he was, right by your side, quoting Escoffier and pushing you along not just physically, but mentally as well.
C&RB: At Pursell Farms, you have the ultimate “farm to table” restaurant, with longhorns, chickens and a huge vegetable garden all on site. What are some of your long-term goals, for both you and the Pursell family, as far as products you’d like to offer in your restaurants?
Griffith: Life at the farm is getting ready to expand! We are super-excited to have a master gardener on staff full-time to help with all vegetable production. With two new outlets being built, we will need as much produce as we can get. What I hope to see in the future of the farm is a full-on butchering operation. We use all home-grown veggies, farm eggs, and even save all food scrap for our pigs (soon to be bacon!).
C&RB: Is this now your dream job, with just about everything you cook grown right outside your kitchen door?
Griffith: If you have not had a chance to see the farm, then my words could never do it justice! I tell everyone who comes here, how could one not love it? How could one not be excited to drive into and be surrounded by such loving owners, amazing staff members and just the pure nature of God. It’s truly the most amazing place!
C&RB: You serve guests in the cottages at FarmLinks. What do you offer them when they request to eat in?
Griffith: We cook everything from shrimp and grits, gumbo and chowder to grilled steaks, quail and more.
C&RB: You are very involved in front-of-the-house training at Pursell Farms. What are the most important things that you stress over and over again in your sessions?
Griffith: I am blessed to work hand-in-hand with such an amazing front-of-the-house manager, Jose Montavilo, who like me is no stranger to the culinary world, having worked for some big names throughout his career. Together, we build the strong, united front to guide our team toward success.
C&RB: You are big on emphasizing safety on your property, as we all strive to do. What do you stress to your teams, in order to have a safe workplace environment?
Griffith: I simply ask that they stay focused and on task. If they are constantly aware of the task at hand and their surroundings, they can stay safe and adapt as needed.
C&RB: It seems like there is a lot of young, positive energy at Pursell Farms, which has a close association with Auburn University’s turf, horticulture and hospitality programs. Does that make recruiting talent a bit easier?
Griffith: The farm has had a relationship with Auburn for years, with the research and development golf course being a huge part of those ties. We’re now in the beginning phases of trying to work more with the school’s hospitality program, too. I see that as being a huge asset not only to the farm, but also the students, to be able to expand their culinary repertoire.
C&RB: Finally, Chef, you’ll be presenting and demonstrating at C&RB’s Ninth Annual Chef to Chef Conference in Atlanta in March 2017. What’s one of the messages that you hope you’ll be conveying to the chef attendees?
Griffith: Stay true to the product and do it justice. Food trends will come and go, but the care you put into a product will always shine.