English Turn Golf and Country Club has created a successful F&B operation by mixing member requests, staff ideas and lots of ingenuity.
In a food-crazed city like New Orleans, offering members a menu of more than typical “club fare” is a must. After all, New Orleans is home to such iconic dishes as beignets, crawfish ettoufee, gumbo, and po’boys.
Beyond the good grub and famous Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans is also a city steeped in tradition, with a rich history that has cultivated a culture where helping one another is a way of life.
Embodying that culture, New Orleans’ English Turn Golf and Country Club stands as an example of a traditional Southern club with superb facilities, a community-oriented staff and membership, a staff brimming with good, applicable ideas—and darn good food, too.
English Turn Golf and Country Club
Club Location: New Orleans, La.
The club’s 45,000-sq. ft. clubhouse recalls the grace and grandeur of one of Louisiana’s legendary plantation homes. Romantic verandas and an expanse of green lawns and flowering gardens surround the building and make it an attractive destination for weddings and events.
In addition to its clubhouse, English Turn also boasts an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus championship golf course, tennis center, fitness center and swim pavilion.
“Our membership style is very relaxed,” says Gary Braun, General Manager. “Members come here to spend time with their families, enjoy our amenities, eat in our dining rooms and socialize with one another.
“As a staff,” Braun adds, “we’re tasked with cultivating an environment that enables them to do just that, by making sure their experience at English Turn is as user-friendly as possible every time.”
Creating Creole Cuisine
English Turn is home to three distinct dining operations: an evening dining room that features a family-themed menu on Wednesdays and a grill-themed menu on Thursdays; a mixed grill that shares a menu with the men’s grill, and a poolside snack bar that serves up more than just hot dogs and French fries.
“Our style would be termed Contemporary New Orleans cuisine,” says Executive Chef J.R. Picard, who came to English Turn nearly five years ago, after having spent time on the lines at both The Walt Disney Company and Commander’s Palace. “We keep traditional dishes on the menu, but we try to infuse them with new ideas and techniques.”
Such examples include grilled jumbo shrimp topped with a shrimp champagne sauce, served with fresh spinach cakes; Redfish Pontchartrain sautéed with crabmeat butter and pecan and pepper rice; and Picard’s Oysters Raven (see recipe, pg. 31), which has earned English Turn national acclaim and was featured in The Club Menu: Signature Dishes from America’s Premier Golf Clubs, by Scott Savlov and Jon Rizzi (Pindar Press, 2011).
Menus change seasonally, but the dishes always incorporate indigenous and seasonal ingredients that Picard takes great care to source from his trusted and well-developed list of purveyors. “I’ve been a chef in this area for a long time, and I have certain places where I know I can get the highest-quality products,” he says.
Picard encourages staff to come up with new ideas each time the club changes its menu. He also encourages members to add their input, even if it’s something as simple as adding a different type of salad or panini to the menu at the pool.
“When it’s time to rewrite the menus, each cook is asked to bring an idea to the table,” he says. “Based on those ideas, we create a menu of eight dishes and host a tasting with key staff, as well as members of our Food and Beverage Committee. And based on that tasting, we take four or five of the best dishes and add them to the menu, rotating out less seasonal items.”
Throughout the year, Picard is careful to watch his food costs, which run at 30%, by making sure to minimize waste as much as possible. “The chef that learns to reuse product in sauces or soups is going to be the most successful,” he says.
This philosophy also enables Picard to make a lot of the elements he uses and serves from scratch, including most of the club’s desserts.
“They aren’t overly fancy, but they are well-made and fresh,” says Picard. “We have a lot of foodies who are members, and they appreciate a good piece of homemade pie or a delicious cookie or cake.”
While scratch-made is certainly the ideal, there are cases where Picard will purchase product when he knows his staff simply isn’t capable of handling the volume.
“If we have an event where we need 200 tiramisu, we’ll buy them instead of making them from scratch,” he adds.
Bringing the Outside In
One of the tenets of English Turn’s success has been its steadily growing event and banquet business. Spearheaded by Cammy Livingston, Sales and Marketing Director, the club averages nearly 200 catered events a year.
“We’re fortunate in that our banquet operation is open to the public,” says Livingston, who promotes the club’s facilities in local papers, through its Facebook page and by earning high marks from past brides through referrals and on TheKnot.com. “We were named the 2012 Best Wedding Venue on The Knot.”
The club can accommodate intimate meetings for 25 or an upscale reception for 600. “Not many venues in this area can offer such a wide range,” says Livingston, who feels that the attention to detail and level of customization given to each client is what helps to set English Turn apart from the competition.
“We treat every person who walks through the door as a member,” she says. “Our level of service is unmatched. If a bride wants to write a menu from scratch, [Chef Picard] will sit down with her to do that. If a client wants help with décor or finding other vendors for the reception, we’ll help with that, too.”
English Turn’s level of service extends beyond weddings. The club is also highly active in giving back to the local community through the various charity events that it hosts.
For example, in December, the club is hosting its first annual Champagne and Shopping Social. During the social, members and guests will gain access to an exclusive shopping event featuring local vendors, in exchange for bringing a gift to be given to the local Children’s Hospital, or a $25 donation to the Children’s Hospital Toy Drive.
“We’re expecting well over 200 guests,” says Livingston. During the event, hors d’ouevres and champagne will be served, compliments of English Turn.
“Helping our local community is important to our members,” says Livingston. “We’re six years out from [Hurricane Katrina], but the lasting impact has been the ingrained importance of community and coming together to help those in need. Events like Champagne and Shopping, and our Second Harvest Foodbank, are just a few ways for our members to not only give back, but have fun doing so.”
School’s Not Out
In addition to giving back to the community, English Turn takes great pride in giving back to its staff, by having key managers such as Livingston and Picard engage in continuing education events such as webinars, tradeshows and conferences like Club & Resort Business’ Chef to Chef Conference (for more information, visit www.CheftoChefConference.com).
“We put a great emphasis on continuing education for our staff, to infuse fresh ideas and concepts into all that’s offered at English Turn,” says Braun. “Learning something new, networking with colleagues and getting the chance to think about English Turn outside of the 9-to-5 workday not only helps them function more effectively, but improves their overall confidence.”
View Chef Picard’s Recipe for Oysters Raven.
View Chef PIcard’s Recipe for Marinated Eggplants.
View Menus from English Turn Golf and Country Club:
View English Turn G&CC’s Summer 2011 Wine List.
View English Turns G&CC’s Wedding Packages.