The calendar of dining and social events is often the heartbeat of a club.
With the onset of COVID-19 last year, the beats slowed. The calendar went blank. The fluidity of the outside environment required flexibility inside. Event programming called for a new energy, a new rhythm.
“COVID put rockets behind our brains,” said Williams Alejo, clubhouse manager and food and beverage director at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We had to ask ourselves, as operators, how do we keep our clubs safe, relevant to our members, and create something to look forward to?”
The familiar “night out on the town” is less accessible now than it was in the past. Downtown restaurant experiences have been limited by restricted capacities, reduced seating, and modified menus. At the same time, members are still heading to their clubs to play more golf than ever before, attracted by the sport as an outdoor and socially distanced activity, and by the idea of heightened safety, security, and controlled environments that private clubs offer.
Most bars remained closed in the state of Arizona for much of 2020, so Alejo, who is a master bartender and mixologist, decided to bring the experience to the members instead. He and his food and beverage team designed an interactive event, where members attend as couples or small groups to learn the true art of mixing cocktails.
NEW CONCEPTS IN F&B
“Mixology is about finding the best spirits you can get your hands on, and understanding the balance between the level of alcohol, dilution, and flavor profiles,” Alejo expressed. “It’s the same approach a chef takes with food: find the best products, don’t forget about balance, and then don’t mess with the true essence. Sometimes we get so creative, we forget the star of the show is the spirit!”
For Troon Country Club’s version of the mixology masterclass, each couple is equipped with the necessary tools for cocktail-making wizardry, as well as all of the ingredients to make the evening’s drink recipes. The charismatic Alejo personally emcees each event, sharing his cocktail mixing know-how and contagious cordiality, while members pour their hearts out.
Sparking a new appreciation for masterful concoctions, the event is now established as a seasonal calendar entry and signature event. In response to the energized interest in crafted cocktails, Alejo has since expanded the club’s spirit offerings and introduced a new mobile, tableside “cocktail cart” for members to enjoy while dining.
Seeing the success of the mixology events, Alejo and Troon Country Club’s Executive Chef, Alejandro Martinez, were determined to continue developing unique programming for members to enjoy within the constraints of the club. With extensive local ties and deep roots in the industry, the food and beverage duo started conversations with restaurant operators and chefs in the Phoenix metropolitan area. They traded ideas, which turned into action, and a collaboration was born: The pair would partner with local chefs to bring the best culinary talent the city offers to Troon Country Club.
“Chef Alejandro has welcomed other chefs into his kitchen with open arms,” said Alejo. “By working together, we’re able to bring new concepts to our club. It gives us the opportunity to provide a unique, and safe, night out for our members, while showcasing the culinary talent of chefs from all over the Valley. Members can still enjoy their favorite restaurants or be
introduced to new ones.”
The most recent kitchen collaboration came in the form of celebrity chef and local restaurateur, Nick LaRosa — a Food Network “Chopped” champion and executive chef/co-owner of local Blueprint Hospitality brands Nook Kitchen, The Bar, and Dilly Dally.
Additionally, Chef Alejandro has partnered with Chef Brian Peterson from Troon-managed Terravita Golf and Country Club, also in Scottsdale, and plans to work alongside Chef Jeremy Pacheco, executive chef and culinary director for the Phoenix-based restaurant group behind The Vig, The Little Woody, The Womack, Ladera Taverna y Cocina, and The McMillan.
Prior to the event, which is intentionally designed to be small and intimate, the guest chef designs a custom multi-course menu, showcasing his cooking style and offering a taste of his restaurant’s character. On the evening of the event, Chef Alejandro prepares the menu alongside the guest chef, quite literally cooking up a unique infusion of talent that could only be experienced in that moment.
“The best part about this culinary collaboration is that people within the hospitality industry are coming together; the private club concept is colliding with the independent restaurant community to create a brand new experience for people,” said Ed Doyle, president of RealFood Hospitality Strategy and Design, a Troon company and hospitality advisory firm.
“As integral parts of their respective communities, country clubs are an epicenter for experiences. In this partnership, Troon Country Club is using that fact to serve its members but also to support the nearby restaurant community, and hospitality as a whole. As a fellow chef, I think it’s resourceful and exciting,” Doyle commented.
Through creativity, collaboration, and determination, Alejo and his team continue to bring unique hospitality experiences to the Troon Country Club member community. One might say, they never skipped a beat.