When I received the brochure for the first-ever “Club Chef’s Institute” (CCI) late last summer, I stopped dead in my tracks. Could this really be as perfectly timed and conceived an event as it appeared to be?

To begin with, the CCI would be held in late fall, when executive chefs like me are always looking for a chance to escape and unwind at the end of another hectic golf season. And it would be at no less spectacular a venue than The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs,

W.Va., one of the world’s most renowned and respected resorts.

Best of all, the CCI would bring together over 250 club chefs from around the nation to see and hear presentations about club-specific culinary ideas and issues. This was a long-overdue conference concept that I, as someone still relatively new to club executive chef circles, had always hoped someone would offer.

So I held my breath, checked my own club’s party schedule, and found, with great glee, that the dates of the conference would indeed work for me. From that point, it took me about five seconds to send in my registration.

A “Slam Dunk” from the Start
From the minute I arrived at the conference, the Institute’s team, headed by Rod Stoner, The Greenbrier’s Vice President of Food and Beverage, made it clear that every event on the agenda would create a tremendous learning experience for all of us club chefs in attendance. One of those events was the informal kickoff event, held at the resort’s “Slammin’ Sammy’s” restaurant (named for the legendary Greenbrier golf pro, Sam Snead).

The casual “Foods of the Virginias” dinner at “Sammy’s” was perfectly staged and a great way for our group of “back of the house” warriors to relax and meet each other. And we all immediately got some great ideas for new “theme nights” at our own clubs. The menu featured oyster stew, short ribs with white truffle grits, braised mustard greens with ham hocks, apple and blackberry crisp, all served family-style on big platters as we sat around rustic wood tables.

The next day, it was “officially” down to business. Peter Timmins, CMC and Executive Chef at The Greenbrier, and Lawrence Mc Fadden, CMC and Vice President of Culinary for Ritz-Carlton Hotels, teamed up to demonstrate new ideas in “Small Plates and Buffet Presentations.” This tapas-style demonstration was designed, as Chef Timmins said, “to give your catering style a different look occasionally, (but) not to change it completely and scare off your membership.” I especially liked his demonstration of a new way to serve poached salmon as a brunch item. Instead of preparing the whole fish, he showed how to drastically improve presentation by using a tureen to serve it individually, as an alternative to the classic “side” of salmon.

That evening, many of the chef presenters teamed up to “bring the presentation to life” and show the “chef guests” how this concept could be presented to a group as large as 350. What a display of talent! While not every chef always has the luxury of forty bodies on hand to turn out food of this caliber from ten stations, the intent was to show that, even on smaller scales, there are many available options for this type of “grazing” event.

Recently, I spoke with Chef Timmins about the conference. To him, the best part was how so many chefs were at ease in coming up after his presentations to make comments and exchange ideas. “It was clear the chefs felt it was their event, and that meant we were successful in reaching our primary goal,” he said.

Bringing It All Home
Certainly, I know I returned from the CCI well-rested, well-fed, and most of all, well inspired to try out new ideas. The next weekend, in fact, we hosted a local Club Managers Association of America chapter meeting at Merion. I took the opportunity to use some of the small-plate recipes and techniques demonstrated at The Greenbrier—specifically, Maryland crab cakes with a butternut squash puree; pistachio crusted lamb chops; and seared scallops with white corn sauce and smoked tomato coulis. In all cases, the feedback was incredible.

Now, I see that promotion for this year’s CCI has been sent out (to be held October 30-November 2; for more information, contact Sarah Forrester at 800-624-6070 or Sarah_Forrester@greenbrier.com). I’m glad this will be an annual event; it’s a great way to learn and share club-specific experiences. And I don’t think I’ll have any trouble breaking my five-second registration record this time around.

Jerry Schreck is a member of the Club & Resort Business Editorial Advisory Board and will write frequently for C&RB on club-specific culinary topics. Have a topic you’d like to see Jerry address? A question about a specific F&B challenge you’re facing at your club? Want to invite Jerry to visit your club sometime to exchange ideas? Write to him at editor@clubandresortbusiness.com.