Cody Middleton, one of the newly appointed Pastry Chefs of the Polo Club of Boca Raton, actively seeks new learning experiences to push his boundaries, grow and evolve.
Accepting a new position in a new club is something each of us experience over course of our careers. In this industry, there are a million different paths an individual can pursue. Staying at one operation may be comfortable, but experiencing, learning, and evolving by working in different venues with new people, in my opinion, can help you evolve both personally and professionally.
When I was presented with the opportunity to join the team at The Polo Club of Boca Raton (Fla.), there was a lot consider. Why leave Forsyth CC? Why stay? What could Polo offer that Forsyth CC couldn’t? Ultimately, I decided that the knowledge and growth I would gain from this new opportunity were too great to pass up.
Currently, I am second in line in our Pastry Department under our Executive Pastry Chef, Austin Scoles. I am responsible for overseeing our bread baker and his assistant, along with five pastry cooks. This is a much larger team than I was previously responsible, so each day I am given a chance to sharpen my management skills. I am lucky to be a part of a team that strives to produce the best breads and pastries possible.
In season, we run five full-service restaurants along with two other culinary outlets. Like every other club, we balance the day-to-day operations of these restaurants, while preparing for banquets and other events. December is a busy month for all of us, but Polo was much busier than Forsyth. The numbers seem mind boggling. Last month, we had banquets with plated desserts for 400, 500, and 450 people back-to-back in three days. Needless to say, mise en place, management, and communication were even more crucial with so many covers. Wrapping my brain around all the logistics with and successfully executing these events was something I could only do here at Polo. And I’m so grateful for this experience.
The culture of Polo and the community surrounding us is much different than where I was previously, as well. Winston-Salem is close to my hometown. So it wasn’t difficult to relate to members and understand their needs. The membership at Polo is much larger and more diverse. Additionally, an large majority of our members practice Judaism. Prior to working at Polo, I knew very little about Jewish holidays, the dietary restrictions associated with these holidays, celebrations, food preferences, or customs. Some of the most popular foods enjoyed here are brand new to me. Learning and understanding what our members want has been exciting and challenging.
In any career, the people you work with and surround yourself with ultimately determine your success. At Polo Club, I feel that I am surrounded by some of the most dedicated and accomplished culinarians in the industry.
The staff here has also exposed me to so many new things. I love working alongside and learning from other club chefs. Each one brings different experiences and knowledge to the table. It is truly rewarding what you can discover by exposing yourself to other professionals. I constantly tell my pastry cooks, “Never dismiss another individual’s method for doing something because it is different from your own. Instead, consider it an opportunity for you to pick up a new skill and learn.”
Our Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef, Edward Leonard, CMC, strives to enrich each employee’s career through his many years of knowledge and expertise. How often do you get to work with one of the 71 Certified Master Chefs in the U.S.? When I interviewed at Polo, Chef told me “everything that goes out of my kitchens must be perfect.” He doesn’t settle for anything less than perfection. Maintaining that standard has been a great learning experience for me. Not only does Chef hold his employees accountable for producing remarkable food, he also teaches us to keep the highest standards of organizing, purchasing, utilizing and maintaining equipment, scheduling, communicating, and managing. He challenges each of us to better ourselves every day.
Staying in a club where you’re no longer challenged can be one of the quickest and easiest way to curtail your professional growth. While it is important to have a firm grasp on the organization of whatever establishment you work, it is crucial to always challenge and educate yourself while also thinking about the next step in your career.