Troon Dines: The Brilliance Of Her Kitchen, Chef Carolyn Torres
Carolyn Torres is the executive chef at The Peninsula Golf & Country Club, a world-class residential resort community along the scenic waterways of Southern Delaware. Overseeing four restaurants, events and catering, Chef Carolyn and her culinary team live by a “be better every day” mantra. Torres’s kitchen is a bright beacon of culinary fortitude, marked by a culture of caring, professionalism, and collaborative training. Chef shares her passion for her trade, her learning-first outlook, and how she tunes in as a female leader in an industry evolving from its historical preconceptions.
TROON: What do you wish more people knew about professional chefs? TORRES: As a whole, the Food Network has glamorized being a chef, and students are coming out of culinary school not knowing how much work actually goes into becoming a professional chef — it’s about doing all the work, from cleaning the floors and hood vents to costing menus; it’s not just about being good at cooking; anyone can read a recipe. A chef is a mathematician, a scientist, a leader.
As a female chef, what challenges do you face? What opportunities? Not only am I a female chef, I am a petite female chef. I do not represent the typical portrait of a chef. When someone walks into my kitchen looking for the chef, they automatically go to the older gentleman in the room. I don’t know if that will ever change in my career lifetime. Here in Delaware, we have a strong community of female chefs. We all have a common ground, for all chefs really, but especially for women who are chefs. Delaware Restaurant Association has a great event, Women of Hospitality Conference, where we all come together for education and inspiration.
We all face the pressures of “work-life” balance, and especially in the culinary trade. How do you achieve a balance? I still haven’t mastered this one. And then I thought about it: Everyone defines work-life balance differently. When I’m not at work and take vacation, I truly unplug; it might not be as often as I should, but when I do, it means more to me because of this. I also walk my dog, Duke, for two miles a day. It gets my mind ready for the day.
Chef Torres’ culture of caring produces food both delicious and well presented
How are you finding creative ways to meet the current climate of staffing challenges? I see it as more of a long game, starting with the younger generation. I’m working on getting our name out there with vo-tech students and culinary programs in Delaware. I want to inspire the younger generations and show them the career path. The Delaware Restaurant Association has a ProStart program, where we put on fundraiser dinners with students and mentor them.
What’s the key ingredient to your culinary team’s success? I feel it’s the culture of caring. My team really cares about what they put out; they put their best foot forward and want to do better every day, just like I do. If you’re here for a paycheck, this isn’t your kitchen; if you’re here to learn or grow, this is a place you want to be.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Torres landed at The Peninsula Golf & Country Club almost seven years ago after a tour of exceptional professional experiences at five-star and five-diamond institutions across the country including Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.; The American Club Hotel and Spa in Kohler, Wis.; and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Torres also attended Florida International University, graduating with a degree in Hospitality Management. A passionate culinarian, Torres spends much of her time inside the kitchen, or restoring balance outside on the beach, the trails, or at a state park.