Mike Fortino is the general manager of the Grayling Country Club. He is beginning his third season in a new career in the golf industry and he appears to be doing things he really enjoys. The club’s growing restaurant business is the area most members and patrons of the club see changing significantly from his culinary vision. Overseeing a busy golf course, restaurant and bar, as well as keeping track of leagues and special events does not allow much time for other things.
Because there are authentic Italian items showing up on the menu and the unmistakable scent of fresh garlic coming from the kitchen this is going to be a mock interview with Mike , mainly about the restaurant portion of his job .
Patrons of the clubhouse have come to realize that when Mike dons an apron and begins to create a special dish it will go well beyond the barbecue ribs and chicken that are favorites for many of us. Let us take this opportunity to get to know the Mike as the general manager with an apron on:
Q. What led you to be interested the culinary side of the club’s business?
A. My parents opened a restaurant when I was a kid and I learned a lot from them. At the same time I developed a love for creating unique dishes from scratch using fresh ingredients. And I still love to serve family and friends traditional Italian home-cooked meals. I believe the club's restaurant has great potential to better serve our members and guests and to become a vital part of our business.
Q. Sounds like you might do the cooking at home?
A. My wife and I both love the kitchen and we also like trying new recipes. We make our own desserts. Apple sauce is my favorite when made with apples from a tree here at the club.
Q. What is the best compliment you have received from a guest about your food?
A. I recall more than one guest saying something like: “This Ravioli is better than my mother makes it and we will be back next week with some friends.”
Q. What is the biggest reward of being a general manager that loves to cook? And what are the biggest challenges?
A. The fun comes when I walk through the dining room or out on the deck on a Friday night and guests say nice things about dinner and the atmosphere at the club. Our financial guys also tell me that our restaurant is the fastest growing part of our business...I really like to hear that because it means that customers like what we are offering them day in and day out..
A. With respect to challenges, there are a number of them. Getting the right mix of traditional barbecue ribs and chicken with a few more special offerings. Then too, serving 80 to 100 meals in three hours time, on a Friday night, from a small kitchen can make one crazy.
Q. What are your plans in the kitchen for the coming summer season?
A. I’m going to try a blackened chicken, with vine-ripened tomatoes and a Cajun cream sauce on a Friday night this summer. Laughs. Actually, we hope to increase our lunch menu and make our dining room the place to bring business guests or your spouse for a leisurely mid-day dining experience. A new commercial stove is going to help us be more innovative this season.
A. Another important thing is that we have a new kitchen supervisor who is studying to be a restaurant manager (or maybe a chef) and I know he will add some innovations in our menu as a direct result of his energy and creativity.