Aside from the golf course, food and beverage is one of the most important amenities at any club- private or public. This episode, we’re going to be talking about what goes on in the kitchen. Special guest host Keith Stewart joins Alyson.
The following excerpt has been edited for space. Listen to the rest of the episode here.
Alyson Johnson: So from what I understand, you started with a book after traveling around the world to different gorgeous clubs that are, you know, the “who’s who” kind of list, looking at best recipes and culinary stories and sharing that, which has now grown into a magazine. So can you just tell us, what do you have going on?
Diana DeLucia: The first book I did was actually back in, I started in 2010, it was called Golf Club World, Behind the Gates and Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton was my first supporter- that was where it all started. And then the second book launched Golf Kitchen that launched in 2016 at Winged Foot Golf Club with the help of Colin Burns and Rhy Waddington.
We did another launch at Kiawah Island Club, which went really well. We bring the chefs in from all over the world- it was fantastic. And then at that event at Cassique, we came up with this idea with some of the chefs that I’d start a magazine- which I really want to do because I’d already had one in New York on the culinary side, and it’s a lot of work, more than you can possibly imagine.
So then we had two big culinary events in Mexico, where we had chefs from the mainland and Mexican chefs and Uraquan chefs cooking and having a chef playoff. That was really exciting, because they were getting to collaborate together, which was really unheard of before about 2014. You would never get private clubs sharing their chefs to get a like that in such a way.
Keith Stewart: I spent a large majority of my life at a club and it seems so obvious that food and golf get paired together, almost like a great steak and a fantastic wine, but you know, there aren’t a lot of GolfKitchen.com’s, right? How did you make this connection?
Diana DeLucia: After my first book, Golf Club World, was released, I had met this lady Zenta Thomas- I think she’s in Bangkok at the moment, they do golf stuff in Asia all the time- Zenta contacted me and she offered me a column in China in Destination Golf Magazine, and it was called Golf Kitchen. That would get translated into Chinese and it was really cool, because we’d have all these American club chefs and it would all be in Chinese writing. I have a cousin who would check it for me, because he’s married to a lady from China and he lived over there, and he would check all the editing. I thought, “that could be a brand name, Golf Kitchen.”
I typed it into Google and there was a guy sitting on it, you know, trying to sell the domain to me for $8,000. So I thought, oh, I better think of a new name. Then one day I just magically checked for some other domains, and it (golfkitchen.com) was literally $1. Perfect. He had obviously let it expire. I was super happy.
And now it’s becoming a brand, it’s standing on its own. And I have this 20 page piece that I’m producing for World Luxury Magazine. We don’t know where to begin, but I’ve got a lot of help from the club marketing team. We want to put them (chefs) on the stage. And that was one of the things that from the beginning, club chefs really are not looked up to, highlighted, or illuminated in any way that a lot of them deserve.
I knew that there had to be good chef talent there because they can eat at any restaurant, anywhere in the world. And that was how it first started, but it was Colin Burns (from Winged Foot) that did encourage me to go down that path because at that time he had brought in Rhy Waddington to raise the bar on the culinary side at their club.
Alyson Johnson: You’ve obviously got your finger on the pulse with chefs and GMs across the country. I’m curious if there were any trends that you saw come out during COVID with these kitchens and what ones do you think will stick? What was working well?
Diana DeLucia: I would say the biggest thing that was really big for most clubs was the takeout because all the, particularly the country clubs, but even some of their private clubs with no real estate- they were doing the same thing having takeout. They were having events on the lawn. They came up with so many different ideas that you could socially distance. They were doing drive-ins, they had music.
But I think of all the things that will likely stay, takeout will stay. They were doing cooking lessons via zoom to the membership. Uh, they were doing wine tastings and I think a lot of that will stay, but I also think people are hungry to be together. They’re sick of all of this. And golf is a perfect venue destination to establish that because, you can be safe at a golf club cause that’s what they normally do anyway. There’s plenty of fresh air. The clubhouse is expansive. So it makes sense.
Keith Stewart: I’d love to learn more about, what is it that impresses you the most about the Collin Burns’s of the world, or the executive chefs of the world? You know, what is it about their creativity and how they bring that to the forefront?
Diana DeLucia: Attention to the members 150% attention to the members. That was one thing I looked at the difference between an executive chef at a restaurant to an executive chef at a private club or a country club. At a restaurant, anybody can come and eat and if they don’t like it, then don’t go back. And the chef makes whatever he wants to make. That’s his menu, his choice. You go to a private club, you’re serving a membership. And you have to see them every day. They might be eating there three or four times a week, and you have to be the kind of person that really wants to make a member happy. That has to be in your nature. If you look at someone like Colin Burns, he’s spot on. He knows every member. He’s done it for 25 years, you know? And I’m not the authority on general managers by any stretch. But from what I see with clubs like Sebonack, Glen Arbor, or a Winged Foot, that the attention to detail to make the membership happy is just, you know, it blows my mind every time.
What makes them so special is that they’re the kind of people that desire to make others happy. And it’s a challenge for them. A lot of chefs have said this to me too. It’s a challenge for them. If a member didn’t like something that they did, it’s a challenge for them to make him or her happy.
Listen to the rest of the episode here to hear Diana talk more about Golf Kitchen and the food scene in the game of golf.