“I cannot explain the relationship that we have with club members to a restaurant chef. You have to live it to really understand the importance and impact of it.” – Adam Minicucci, executive chef and F&B director, Country Club of North Carolina.
As we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm, I am reminded of a heart-warming story that highlights the integral relationship between club members and employees that is unique to the private club world.
This article tells the story of a bond between a club executive chef and a warm and generous member who had a passion for food. The story also highlights the importance of providing employees with the tools they need to perform their jobs (which is common sense but not common practice!).
I met Katie Bolt in Pinehurst when we conducted the executive chef search for the Country Club of North Carolina in 2013. At the time she was a board member of the club and chair of the House Committee. As a result of that search, we placed Chef Adam Minicucci, who has prospered at the club ever since.
After an impressive career as executive director of the National Council of Community Hospitals and then pursuing a second career in art as a sales associate for Sotheby’s and Washington Fine Properties, Ms. Bolt moved to Pinehurst in 2007. She became a member of the Country Club of North Carolina where she eventually served two terms as a board member.
She met Chef Minicucci during his interview at the club on August 13, 2013 and took him out for dinner later that evening to discuss the board’s vision for the club’s culinary future. They forged a bond through their mutual respect for the culinary program at the Inn at Little Washington and their love of food and hospitality.
When I saw Chef Minicucci at the CMAA World Conference earlier this year, he told me about his relationship with Ms. Bolt and the impact she had on the staff and culinary operations.
You see, last year, Ms. Bolt contributed funds earmarked explicitly for much-needed kitchen renovations, as well as several specialized pieces of equipment that were “game changers” for the staff.
According to Minicucci, “Katie spent every day at the club. She was part of its fabric and she cared deeply for the staff and how they were treated. The club is each member’s ‘home away from home’- an extension of their living room – and she wanted every member to treat staff like family, with dignity and respect. She also wanted to provide the culinary team with the tools to make a difference. What she didn’t realize is that her contribution not only had a major impact on the quality of the service and efficiency of culinary operations, but she also affected the career of every member of the culinary team. They are getting invaluable experience using state-of-the-art equipment, which attracts new employees and makes their skills more marketable.”
When Ms. Bolt could no longer visit the club during the final weeks of her illness, Minicucci visited her. He shared updates, the renovation plans and the equipment they were planning to purchase so Ms. Bolt could feel a part of the process and understand the impact of her legacy.
The club purchased new combi ovens for the a la carte and banquet lines, a tilt skillet, a blast chiller, new ice maker and ice crusher machines, ice cream machine, and stainless steel tables on casters that featured storing drawers and drop-down heat lamps. The storing drawers are especially popular with team members – each drawer is assigned to a staff member!
New reach-ins and lowboy refrigerators were installed, and an existing walk-in was gutted and completely reconstructed. Modular, non-corrosive metro shelves were purchased to make cleaning and refiguration a snap.
They even installed a new prep sink – one that is level and drains properly!
The renovations provided the tools to deliver outstanding service as well as a proud and grateful staff.
The team, to express its gratitude and a reminder of Ms. Bolt’s generosity, erected a plaque in the kitchen with her picture and a quote that she said once to Minicucci: “We are cut from the same cloth; we love to make people happy which makes us good at what we do.”
Sadly, Katie Bolt passed away in May 2019, but the culinary team thinks of her every day when they see her plaque in the kitchen and meet in front of it for line ups and before significant events. And, at the end of every meeting, each team member touches that plaque, reminding me of “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
As a testament to their relationship, Minicucci, speaking at Ms. Bolt’s memorial service, shared poignant as well as funny stories of her friendship, shared vision and generosity.
Ms. Bolt was most excited about how her contribution could make a difference, making sure it included everything that the culinary team would need to be successful. She wanted to ensure they had the tools they needed to exceed member expectations.
Every club can take a page out of that book – you cannot expect hospitality staff to exceed expectations if you don’t give them the tools they need to do the job effectively and efficiently.
The Country Club of North Carolina is currently undergoing a $3M renovation of the dining rooms, including the expansion of outdoor dining. Thanks to Ms. Bolt’s generosity, the kitchen is already equipped to produce the quality and volume needed when the member dining venues reopen.
Now more than ever, club members and staff rely on each other for understanding, flexibility, patience, and safety. Especially now, we need to treat each other like family – with dignity and respect. We also need to ensure that the staff (our family) have the tools they need to perform their jobs at the highest level and be proud of where they work.
Ms. Bolt’s obituary stated, “Katie will always be remembered as a warm, caring and loving daughter, sister and friend. She graced all those who knew her with her wit, wisdom, generos- ity, kindness and wicked sense of humor.”
Her relationship with Chef Minicucci and the culinary staff, as well as her impact with the entire CCNC’s team, not only made a difference, it made all the difference.
Click here for a video tour of the Country Club of North Carolina’s kitchen renovation highlights.
About the Author…
Lisa Carroll, as a search and consulting executive, specializes in Executive Chef, General Manager, CFO, and HOA/POA Manager searches with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace. For over 30 years, she has built relationships and connections in the private club industry. She has been a regular speaker at Club Management Association of America (CMAA) chapter events and world conferences, as well as American Culinary Federation (ACF) chapter and conference events. Lisa can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 561-596-1123.
THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE – September/October 2020