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Chef John Dutra

Executive Chef, Shadow Hills Golf Club, Indio, California

Chef John Dutra at Shadow Hills Golf ClubQ: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up and please explain if there was a story around that?

A: I grew up in a broken home and always wanted to make something of myself.  I wanted to own my own business and be successful.  I gravitated to a career in the culinary field in high school.  I was home sick from school one day and was home alone watching TV.  A show came on called the “Galloping Gourmet” with Graham Kerr.  He cooked a great dish, but it was at the end of the show that got me interested in cooking.  He would plate, sit down and enjoy the meal.  I was totally hooked on cooking and the effect it could have on someone eating your food from that point on.  I cooked a dish for my family and they loved it.  The next week I was working at a hospital kitchen washing dishes.  One day the morning cook was out ill and I volunteered to fill in.  At 17 I became the Breakfast/Lunch cook and never looked back.

Q: What is one or two interesting facts about your heritage that you would like to share with us?

A: My Portuguese heritage focuses around family.  Family gatherings are a big part of our lives and those gatherings usually center around food.  My Grandmother was a big part of those gatherings cooking classic Portuguese dishes.  She was a special woman and I still cook many of her recipes today. I try to incorporate many of the flavors and dishes of Portugal into my dishes today.

Q: Who got you into the food business and what drew you in?

A: There is really no one who got me into the business.  I sort of gravitated to the food business on my own.  What drew me in was the joy that people had when they ate great food.  It is what continues to make me happy today.  This is evident in a short story about a couple that would come into the clubhouse for dinner regularly.  They had to put their dog down and were devastated.  I did not expect to see them in the restaurant that day. When a server told me they were here I went out to give them my condolences.  I told them that I did not expect to see them tonight.  Their reply was… “eating your food makes us feel good so that is why we are here.”  That is why I do what I do and why I am in the food business.

Q: Was there a mentor that helped guide you along your current career path and was there a piece of advice that helped you along your way?

A:   I will credit my Uncle.  With no Dad at home I would spend the summers with my Uncle and Aunt.  He was a big influence in teaching me how to work hard, focus on your dreams and be driven.  It was his influence that molded my drive to succeed in whatever endeavor I pursued.  In my case, my culinary career.  I was self-taught until after being in the industry for over 20 years decided to make it official and go to Culinary School and graduated just shy of my 50th birthday.

Q: How long have you worked for Troon and what has been your career progression; what do you love most about your job?

A: I have worked for Troon for 7 years.  I started as an Executive Chef and became a Chef and within a year running both back of the house and front of the house operations for five years.  What I love most about my job is the people.  My work family is always there for you, supportive and work hard to create a great place to be.  That translates to happy Chef which makes for happy guests.

Q: What do you do in your daily job or life to inspire minorities to get them interested in the game of golf or into the golf business as a career? 

A: In addition to working at the club, I teach culinary arts at the College of the Desert, the local community college here in the Coachella Valley.  I encourage all of my students who desire a great place to start a great career to look into the golf business.  Not just for a culinary career but for many opportunities that golf provides.  I also teach culinary classes to those at the detention center for the Riverside County Sheriff’s department.  I encourage them to pursue opportunities in the industry.

Q: What is your dream team to share a dinner with?

A: My Uncle for giving me the guidance I needed to succeed, Gordon Ramsey to pick his brain on his success in and out of the kitchen, my wife for all of her support and the sacrifices she made being married to a Chef in the hospitality industry, and lastly Thomas Keller…a Chef I have followed, admired and studied my entire career.


For Johns’ Grandmother Portuguese Rice Pudding Recipe, CLICK HERE

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