A sister club exchange program allows McConnell Golf chefs to mix things up

There's wisdom in that old adage,“two heads are better than one,” especially when it comes to dining programs at McConnell Golf.“We asked our chefs to take a turn both hosting a chef and visiting a chef during the year,” says James Patterson (aka JP), the company’s corporate executive chef who oversees the culinary programs at Sedgefield Country Club and The Cardinal by Pete Dye. “It could be any type of event, a beer dinner, a wine dinner, a farm-to-table dinner, even a member-guest.”

Patrick Budniewski, executive chef at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee recently visited The Country Club of Asheville for a Sunday brunch with Chef Bruce McIntosh. He brought local cheeses and Benton’s bacon with him from East Tennessee. “We used the bacon in three ways — we even made coconut, chocolate chip and bacon scones.” At the suggestion of one of the Asheville line cooks, they also made a bacon-maple glaze to drizzle on the scones. “I had no idea how the membership would respond to it,” Budniewski admits, “but we ran out of scones about halfway through brunch that day.”

From plating styles to recipes, the chefs bring ideas they get from working events at other properties back to use at their own clubs. It might relate to a menu item, like the popular frozen grapes that JP borrowed from McIntosh, who puts them on his kids’ plates at CC of Asheville, or the idea of setting up grilling stations on the golf course during a member-guest tournament that Budniewski first saw at another McConnell Golf club. It could be as simple as the way a banquet is set up. When McIntosh worked with JP at Sedgefield, he noticed that they spread their banquet items out around the room, creating stations of food rather than a straight banquet line. Similarly, he was inspired to jazz up his club’s snacks by Chef Todd Jackson who makes his own beef jerky for golfers at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation.

Yet the chefs aren’t the only ones who find value in visiting other clubs. Members also benefit from having exposure to different styles of cuisine. “It keeps dining exciting,” Budniewski says. “When Bruce came up [to Holston Hills], we did a health and wellness dinner. He did a demo of an Asian-style gluten-free noodle bowl. It was fun for members to see, and it was something we could do here, too. Every chef has a different style to show off.”