Chefs at Work

An Interview with Michael Garbin, CEC, AAC, ACE, HOGT

An Interview with Michael Garbin, CEC, AAC, ACE, HOGT

Executive Chef, Union League Club of Chicago

by David Meyers

Michael Garbin imageMichael – The continuing economic slump has been most difficult on city center clubs like yours. How have you met these challenges, how have conditions effective services and evolved city club foodservice today, and beyond?

A – The past three years have been a challenge not only for city clubs but for all types of operations around the country. City Clubs have had to look at reductions in business, guests hosting smaller parties with a smaller budget but still wanting and getting the biggest bang for their dollar. We have had to adapt and provide service with less staff along with less back of the house staff to maintain our facilities and operation. All of us have had to become more creative with staffing, product utilization and fighting for every nickel, dime and penny we can on the products we bring into our facilities.

Michael – What are some key qualities of today’s modern day city club chef vs. ten years earlier?

A – I have to look past the ten year mark and reflect on the modern day Club Chef coming into play eighteen years ago when I came into the Club Industry and started at the Union League Club of Chicago in 1992. There I was, a Hotel and Resort Chef, coming from a Mobil 5-Star property in Litchfield Park, Arizona to the private club industry at a City Club that was looking to provide their members with a dining experience and quality of product that was and still is being provided in respected dining establishments in Chicago. The challenge was to bring a Chef into the Club and every other Club that could provide a quality dining experience, giving the members a reason to stay as a member or to join.

To Michael Best WishesTwo years ago, the Union League Club of Chicago was named the #1 Private City Club in the country. The work of every team member of the Union League Club of Chicago helped make this happen. We are a dedicated and proud group of professionals.

Since 1992, I have seen many other hotels and restaurants Chefs move into the private club arena. Their experience and talents in working with many great chefs around the country is continuing to affect the modern day club chef. As a result, many aspiring young professionals launch and forge their career foundations in clubs. We attempt to keep our culinary environment dynamic, blending youth and well-founded experiences, keeping passions engaged as well as the cuisine edgy and comparable to other revered Chicago restaurants. This ongoing challenge assures we stay current.

Michael – So, how do you drive today’s younger team members?

A – One of the things that a private club provides a chef or culinary team member is a quality of life, something that is becoming more important today. I mean that a regular work schedule, consistent days off and not working from daybreak to dark are a factor for someone to enter this part of the profession. Providing high quality benefits can be an enticement for someone to work in the club environment also. However, while providing a good work environment, culinary team members can become complaisant and not want to leave the “good thing” so to speak. There have to be ways to create growth and interest for the young culinarian to continue to learn and grow. The chef needs to stay current and challenge his culinary team to be creative and take ownership in the culinary program as well. Having them bring personal menu ideas to a tasting and preparing them for the culinary team to review allows the young culinarians opportunity to develop his/her own style and taste.

Michael – Those in industry know you as a very benevolent professional, active in many charitable societies including Share our Strength’s Tasting of the Nation events as well as holding leadership responsibilities in various local and national American Culinary Federation posts. How and where do you find the time to be involved outside you place of work?

What is important to me though my ACF national involvement and with my local chapter currently allows me to share my experiences to my colleagues in Chicago and the Central Region of the ACF. Wanting to bring and share my passion and commitment along with the ideas of professionalism, achieving certification, continuing and quality education, consistent two way communication and opportunities for networking are what I offer should I be elected to this post in the upcoming election. These ideas are cornerstone principles to my success and I hope to ring this message with a broader brush in the coming years. Through the continued support of my culinary team, Club and family I feel it is the time for me to give further to all of those that I have become friends and colleagues with, the members of the American Culinary Federation.

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