Country club life

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by pete, Jul 2, 2002.

  1. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I am beginning to think that I made a huge mistake entering the country club foodservice. I have never met a more bitter, self-centered group of people in my life. I was brought in to change things up a bit, but I didn't want to move too fast on making menu changes until I got a feel for the members here. So I waited over a month before I made a menu change, everyday having to hear, "Well, how soon are you going to change the menu?!" Now that it is done, all I hear is how horrible all these changes are, and though I changed most of the menu, the food is still very down to earth. I have been told that "I suck", "My food sucks", "There was nothing wrong with the way things were, so why did I change it". My favorite, is that most every member has come to me and told me what I should put on the menu. OK, sure, we can have a 150 item menu. They also demand to have just about everything available to them, so when "Joe Smith" (name changed to protect the guilty) comes in, once a month and wants lobster tail, or so-&-so wants veal liver, or whats-his-name wants Walleye, I am forced to pull it out of the freezer, quick thaw it under hot running water, and blast it in the a 500 degree oven just because they don't want to wait for it. Of course, these people will not call ahead and let me know of their requests, and yet, they are unhappy because the food is dry or tough. Yet, if I gently remind them that all they need to do is call ahead, I am told that they always have these things available. Yet, the last chef was canned because his food was not up to par. I think I am beginning to see a cycle here.


    Sorry for the rant. This went on longer than I figured it would. But I feel a little better now.
     
  2. snakelady1

    snakelady1

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    Just say no Pete.....You are going to have to train your customers. Special requests in advance so you don't comprimise your standards....they have been taking advantage of the previous chefs lax authority.
     
  3. greg

    greg

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    Sorry, Pete! I feel (and have felt) your pain. Unfortunately, saying no to the customer at a country club is not a thing that occurs very often, and you'd better have good reason if you try.

    One thing that always helped me was remembering the fact that me and my co-workers had more class and manners than these people could ever hope to have; the members certainly can't buy it. Another thing that helps you get what you want is sucking up to them a little. They fall for it most of the time; they're too busy getting their overly large egos stroked that they don't realize you are manipulating them.

    Good luck, and keep those rants a-comin'! (That'll help you, too)
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Pete, don't despair. You can't please every member all at once. Here's how we did it. We solicited volunteers for a food commitee, then picked ONE member as the go-between. You sit down with the commitee ONCE A MONTH with the GM to go over food issues. This way you're not inundated with requests for this or that or outrageous stuff.

    No matter how "classy" the country club, I've always found the following to work: Give the guys lots of meat, and give the ladies lots of salads. Maybe you should get with the country club chefs association in your area too.

    Kuan
     
  5. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Gotta be tough answering to several hundred bosses. Hope the GM is on your side.
    Both you and your wife are working at the CC right? How's it going for her?
     
  6. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    What ever happened with the old lady?
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, whatever happened to her? It seems as if you need to be a special kind of person to be a country club chef. Most club chefs I know are looking for something or have been there for umpteen years. The perks can be enormous if the members like you, but if they don't, well, we know what happens.

    If things are still going OK, you might want to investigate about getting your CCM certification... just in case you want to get out of the BOH and into club management.

    Kuan
     
  8. panini

    panini

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    CCM country club mentality. It's very hard to deal with when every single member feels that the club has hired you to be their personal chef. Kuan's suggestion for a member food committee as a liaison works.(even taking them out to other clubs) We had this in the clubs when I was there. If all funds are comming in from membership and you're budgeting monthly we used to hold back some monies and have member appreciation dinners and tastings. The tastings(backed by the wine vendors were very popular) We usually managed to add one dish to the menu from the comment cards. Then we always had them for ammunition for the complaints."well a hundred members raved about it two months ago, what happened?!"
    gtg you're not experiencing anything different then the norm. Forget management and go directly to members. They are you ticket.
    jeff
     
  9. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback guys. First of all, yes my wife is there with me, as the club house manager (they have done away with a "GM" and now all heads (chef, club house manager, pro, and grounds all answer directly to the Board). She is having lots of issues also. I am sure we will both work things out eventually. I have always prided myself in making sure that I left a place better off than when I arrived.
     
  10. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Pete,
    Stick to your guns! You certainly have some challenges ahead of you. "True character is revealed when you come face to face with adversity!"
    Keep us posted!
     
  11. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Dear Pete,

    Sometimes wisdom is passed without a word,but only a thought:chef:
     
  12. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    Hey , Pete I loved your rant and can realy relate to it . I spent almost 2 years in the position of The Country Club Chef . Man I can remember how some of those members realy grated on my last nerve . Here is one good example , I had this guy who would not accept his plate of food from the kitchen unless the plate was so hot that the waitress had to use an oven mitt to carry it out to him . I used to take his plate from the warmer and put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and this did the trick untill one morning when he ordered I was defrosting something out in the micro and so I just put his plate on a burner for I think a little to long as when I put his food on the plate man did it sizzle . When the waitress delivered his food he took a drink of water and spilled a couple of drops on his plate and it shattered . He realy didnt want to talk about hot plates to much after that . Oh and by the way this guy was realy not very well liked by the other members so they had a lot of fun at his expense . There are a lot of nose in the air stuck up people who are members of country clubs but there are also some pretty nice folks to . The best thing to have for your position is good food , a quick wit , and a great line of bull $%!+ . Also never let them see you sweat .
    The members are not well conditioned to change so keep this in the back of your head also . Good luck Pete , Your friend in food ,
    Doug
     
  13. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    ...For this point of view. My husband and I are relocating and one of the bites he received on his resume was from a country club. When I read the name of your thread, then read the content, I shouted for him to come look.

    One thing you have to realize is (and I hate to be stereotypical) but ====> these people have money and have grown accustomed to it buying them ANYTHING. They feel no need to be courteous or grateful, even for a service that may have been above and beyond.

    Develop a thick skin. People are very adverse to change. Try going to your favorite restaurant for your favorite dish, only to find out it's not on the menu anymore. Try to ignore the crass comments made by people who are probably old enough to know better. You'd be surprised what some people think is an acceptable comment, but if their kids said it, they'd wash their mouths out with soap.

    If someone sends back a steak claiming it's tough, answer "They ordered it well done and my instant read thermometer read well done. If you'd like one prepared medium, I'd be happy to do it for you." I don't believe the chef should take abuse for producing the dish the way the (sometimes) moronic customer ordered it. Apologizing for a band aid in a souffle should be heartfelt, but doing what you're asked doesn't necessitate any apology. Also, management should not hold you to any sort of "decorum" when someone tells you the food sucks or you suck. That member should be banned from the dining room, simply because they are uncivilized.

    Is the restaurant management behind you?? A lack of support from them would probably be the linguini that breaks my back. Was there any established time period over which the changes were supposed to take place? Was there any kind of announcement to the clientele that changes were in progress? Advanced warning of such change would have smoothed the way for you by taking away the "surprise" element.

    Hang in there, dude...give it some more time. After the clientele has adapted to the new menu, maybe they'll grow some manners.
     
  14. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Here is an update to my life at the Club. In the past few weeks things got really bad. Finally, I had a meeting with the President of the Board. At the meeting he apologized to me for putting me in a very bad position. It seems that he and the other board members were pushing an agenda that really was not reflective of the club as a whole. Though much of the younger members really enjoyed the new menu, the older members got very disgruntled by it. I quickly made another menu change, and replaced some of the old items (though not all of them). This seems to have calmed things down a bit, but there is still lots of tension at the place. It seems the board told the members of only some of the changes taking place, and then went ahead and made many others without consulting them. I am glad that the board has fessed up about this lack of communication, and hopefully we are now headed in the right direction, but there is a long way to go, and Wanda and I continue to take the brunt of the members displeasure. I am trying to keep a positive attitude, and hope that things continue to move in the right direction.
     
  15. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Now that explains a lot! How completely unprofessional to put you in such a position that you wind up wearing a bulls eye on your toque!! This is, in no way, your fault. Hopefully, the new approach will make everyone happy. It still doesn't excuse the utterly uncivilized way you were treated. As far as I'm concerned, they owe you one.

    P.S. Great idea about getting a member or two from the clientele in on the board meetings. Let the membership tar and feather one of their own when things don't go their way.
     
  16. isaac

    isaac

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    crap... i am going to trail at a country club all next week.. ya all have me scared!
     
  17. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Nah no difference Isaac, just the structure of a country club makes it tough because everyone has some kind of input.

    Two years seems par for the course for a country club chef. If the members like you then you're set for life. Many club chefs brag about how many managers they've been through! :)

    Kuan
     
  18. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Not all clubs members are obnoxious and self-centered (the truely weathier the members the more "normal" and kind they are). What's behind most problems is the politics of the membership. One month isn't enough time to have a clue as to who's who and what's what in a club.
    In every club there's stuggles over "control" and the best clubs have very strong managers who know how to control the membership by dealing with the few that are really in control politicly. And policitcly doesn't mean current "board".
    The board is not always liked or respected by the membership. Look at past board members if you want to find who really has the influence, it's always (from what I've seen) some past president that everyone listens to and who actually still runs things.

    I tried to suggest to you previously to go slow. Rarely are things as they appear to be, life in clubs is political not logical. Chefs that last in clubs move painfully slow....so often it isn't change that these people want. It's quality and service with the same old menus that they really desire. Small changes like adding another oyster ap. that pleases them. They can go to any restaurant for changes, at THEIR club they want the same familar items (they just wish it was cooked a little different one way or another).

    To please the ones who cry for change give them buffets dinners and get creative there, not on your printed menus. The young ones who want the change love gourmet bbq's, wine tastings and children involving events.

    You have to break down the membership into groups (old and young, usually) and please these groups in different ways.
     
  19. isaac

    isaac

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    i just got back from working at the country club... it was awesome.. granting it was only for a week. i loved every minute of it.

    it was a lot of high volume food but you had a lot of room for creativity. all the members were nice and the majority of the empoylees were nice too.
     
  20. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I am glad to hear that your experience at a Country Club is going much better than mine. Best of luck!