Steve Schwartzinger entered the club industry in 2005 as Sous Chef for the original Chef at Hamilton Farm Golf Club. Eleven years later he is the executive chef at the prestigious club located in Gladstone, New Jersey. After working in several fine dining restaurants across Northern New Jersey in a myriad of positions including sauce cook, Sous Chef and Executive Chef, Mr. Schwartzinger jumped at the opportunity to join the team at Hamilton Farm. We had the chance to ask him some questions on the state of Club Dining with some help from Hamilton Farm’s Director Of Banquet and Catering Colette Flint Director of Food and Beverage Kermit Bowen.
Steve, How did you get into the club industry?
I came into the club industry eleven years ago as a Sous Chef for the original Chef for the club.
How has the club industry evolved since your career began?
It definitely changed in regard to how knowledgable members are these days about food and spirits in general. We have a very “well to do” membership, and they eat and drink in some of the best restaurants in the world. They expect the same level of food and service here.
How have the needs of your customers evolved?
I feel that the needs are pretty much the same as they were ten years ago. We try to give them and get them whatever they request. We have noticed there seems to be more of a focus on special dietary restrictions and allergies and we always try our best to accommodate any requests.
What is your approach to recruiting, training and maintaining your staff?
My approach is pretty basic. I look for potential staff that want a career in this industry and are willing and eager to learn. I always make an effort to thank them for the hard work that they do and compliment them on a job well done.
What is your sales pitch for selling special events and what are customers looking for in terms of menu, venue and service?
Colette Flint, Director of Banquet and Catering: I would say that the first step is believing in the product you are selling so it never feels like a sales pitch. We are selling a very important moment and people do not want to spend that time with a used car salesmen. I think they key is simple in theory, but difficult in reality and that is hospitality in the very basic form – being a gracious host/hostess when guests tour your property. People are looking to customize food to their liking. They do not want to be told what they are having but rather have options to create their own menus. It is important for weddings to only have one wedding at a timed for all events to have a private feel.
What trends are you seeing in menus and clubs?
I would have to say more farm to table and local food.
Is that a practical shift with the large volume of diners who come through your club?
It is extremely difficult and not always bottom line friendly. In our busy season it is nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of products that we would need unless I hired one person specifically dedicated to procuring the products.
What is your approach to wine and spirits at Hamilton Farm Golf Club?
Kermitt Bowen, Director of Food and Beverage: We attempt to broaden member’s palates towards new world wines and the ever changing world of spirits. With so many options available we are always trying new things and trying to bring the best options to our membership.
What are the most popular cocktails and drinks right now?
Being a golf club, the most popular are Craft Beers, the Transfusion and the John Daly.
Are there green or sustainable initiatives you are focused on in your club?
We try to use “bio-friendly to go packaging and containers whenever possible. We also try and support winemakers who make efforts to lessen their carbon finger print.
What is your kitchen like? How old is it and do you have renovation plans in the works?
We try and take care of our kitchen as best we can. The kitchen is sixteen years old. We will be installing a new banquet plating and prep kitchen this year for the renovation of our clubhouse and banquet facility.
Finally, where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
With the renovation/addition we are currently doing, I could definitely see us being more of a year round facility than we currently are. We will now have a proper banquet facility that we can sell year round versus a three season tent.