When I was actively managing clubs, I was always amazed when the Chef and I spoke about the quality of food products used at the club, how food is handled, and the resources necessary to secure various products. The F&B committee invariably found this discussion an enlightening one and suggested sharing the information with the entire membership.
We always began with fresh fish and seafood, as it was by far the most popular item on the club’s menu. Perhaps the reason for this popularity is the club had built a wonderful reputation on using only the freshest fish and seafood available. The Chef was always very particular and took great pride in the quality of seafood used at the club. We used to purchase whole fish as opposed to using pre-portioned fillets. The reason for purchasing whole fish was simple; when the whole fish arrives it comes with its head on. This allowed the Chef the opportunity to view the clarity of the fish’s eyes, the color vibrancy of its gills, and to smell the inside cavity of the fish. These three points are measures that were used to determine the freshness of the fish. After the fish was approved for freshness, it was immediately iced down in special containers to maintain maximum shelf life, which in our case meant no longer than three days.
Our seafood was purchased from vendors throughout the world. The beautiful Jumbo Lump Crabmeat that was popular with the members came to us direct from Venezuela. With commercial fishing laws restricting fishing in the Gulf to only the first ten days of the month, we often purchased Red Snapper from a Florida vendor who secured the fish direct from either Bali or Australia. We also recognized timing in our menu development to take advantage of seasonal offerings. During the month of July for example, we planned an “Alaskan Seafood Festival” to take advantage of the fresh Halibut, Salmon and Arctic Char that was in season and readily available to us at their peak.
The same care that is given to seafood was applied to our meats. I recall the Chef spending two days at a workshop just to learn about the grading process of meat. This in turn led to an intense testing procedure to determine the best quality meat suited for the club. The club used “Prime Certified Black Angus Beef.” That meant we were using beef that represents the top 10% to 15% of all beef that is graded prime. Black Angus doesn’t necessarily mean it is “Certified Black Angus.” The key word here is certified, which is different than the supermarket variety Black Angus Beef. In regards to Lamb, we actually introduced Lamb that was farm raised in our state; we found that particular lamb to be of superior quality with more flavor than the best Colorado Lamb.
Produce and fresh fruit were other products we put great emphases on to insure we purchased the best available. Take a melon for example. It may look good on the outside but if it is not cut open and taste tested, you can never be sure it is a quality melon. You guessed it … the majority of fruit and produce received at our loading dock was actually taste tested for ripeness and flavor prior to being accepted. In addition, we purchased fresh produce direct from local farmers and had certain products, such as exotic mushrooms, Fed Ex’ed to our back door.
The point is if your club uses superior products, make sure you and your General Manager make a big deal about it and communicate it to the membership. I believe you can make a favorable impression at your next F&B Committee meeting, and at the same time begin to instill a sense of pride within the membership. When you walk the dining rooms, the club’s quality of food products is a perfect segue into a conversation. Let them know you truly care, and ensure them that your goal is to consistently bring the best product available to their table … as great food begins with great products!