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Five years later: Revisiting the Chrysler Classic

by Brian Clarey

It’s all business in the media tent on Friday, Day 2 of the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, with the print guys hogging all the internet connections as they slap their daily word count out of their laptops and with the television folks acting very, very important.

Out on the course the general population are entitled to free granola bars, free wireless calls, free folding stools (if they fill out the proper paperwork) and a free glimpse of the thong worn by the girl working the smokeless tobacco tent as the undergarment reveals itself from the back of her pants.

The Met Life dirigible floats high in the sky; the volunteers zip around on golf carts and there are Chryslers freaking everywhere, including one set impossibly in the center of the pond.

The last time I was out here at Forest Oaks Country Club was five years ago, under very different circumstances: wearing catering black-and-whites and schlepping trays of hot food to the Polo-shirted and bejeweled knobs in the sponsors’ tents.

I learned that week that a waiter’s uniform is better than a laminated pass for getting behind closed doors. Had I wanted to I could have looted the players’ locker room and danced with their wives in the clubhouse’s private dining hall.

I also learned that week to carry a fork in my pocket. There was food flying all over the place.

And this year is no different, according to Forest Oaks’ Executive Chef Ron Davis, known worldwide, he says, as Chef D, a thin man of deep mocha color and a pair of eyes that has overseen the preparations for hundreds of thousands of meals.

‘“They’re never without anything to eat,’” he says, meaning the players, the VIPs, the caddies, the volunteers’… everybody milling around the green acreage who’s got a mouth and a belly.

We’re in Chef D’s cramped office in a corner of the kitchen, painted a chalky mint green with a well-worn, grease-stained carpet and chef’s whites hanging in the corner next to a network of fuse boxes. Through a Plexiglass window smeared with fingerprints we can see the kitchen, in repose now after slinging out the midday meal.

Between 11 and 12:30 p.m., Chef D says, ‘“they really pig out.’”

It’s a major undertaking to feed the thousands that show up over the course of this six-day event, and the chef has been on an ordering binge to stock the larder.

He estimates he’ll go through about 1200 pounds of liquid eggs in the omelet stations during the week and an additional 25 cases of fresh eggs, at 30 dozen per case. That’s 9,000 eggs, enough to feed the army or have a really killer Halloween night.

He’ll run through about 900 pounds of turkey for the carving stations and deli sandwiches before the week is through and roughly a ton of chicken for hot entrees. He’ll use nearly a thousand cans of Sterno to keep the chafing dishes hot. And he’s laid 2,500 hot dogs and 2,500 hamburgers in the refrigerated truck outside ‘— and those are just for Saturday and Sunday.

Like I said: it’s major.

‘“You’ve got to do some planning,’” Chef D says, gesturing to a row of clipboards, one for each day of the tourney, hanging from nails on the office wall. ‘“The keys to success are timing and planning. You get off key with your timing because of a lack of communication, and then you just can’t do it.’”

He’ll be here each day by 3:30 a.m., to be joined shortly afterwards by the six-man morning crew to sling breakfast. The delivery trucks roll in to the compound during a tight window between 6:30 and 7 and then food service starts. After breakfast and the midday meal the morning crew breaks down the kitchen and the seven-person evening shift sets up for dinner.

During the tournament, Chef D works 16-hour days. And he has no problem with that.

‘“It’s an event that we as a staff take great pleasure in doing, and we take great pride in what we do. From what I’ve been told, we do better than any stop on the PGA.’”

The chef has invested nearly 24 years in Forest Oaks, starting there in 1968 and taking a short leave in 1989, only to return three years ago to take the helm of the kitchen once more. He’s proud of the club and the event, and when the conversation shifts to the possibility of the demise of the Chrysler Classic, he shrugs his thin shoulders.

‘“If we lose the event,’” he says, ‘“the club will go on.’”

Outside on the links John Huston has taken the top of the leader board with an impressive cumulative score of 12 under par. It’s starting to get loud in the 19th hole, and whoever runs the smokeless tobacco tent has made the thong girl tuck in her shirt, thinning foot traffic in the area considerably. The afternoon food goes out in golf carts and in the hands of harried caterers. The Chrysler Classic of Greensboro is alive and well. For today, anyway.

To comment on this column, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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