Q&A with Chef Azhar, Corporate Executive Chef with PGA TOUR and TPC Golf Properties
Mohammad Azhar, Corporate Executive Chef with PGA TOUR and TPC Golf Properties, shares his insights and reasons why livecookintable® is a long-term investment for them.
Mohammad Azhar, Corporate Executive Chef with PGA TOUR and TPC Golf Properties, shares his insights and reasons why livecookintable® is an investment in long-term efficiency, staff satisfaction and personalised guest encounters for The Players Championships at TPC Sawgrass.
The “Nineteen” is the restaurant for “The Players” – the world’s elite of the golf world. What makes it different to prepare food for the sport’s elite
Chef Azhar: Nineteen is different in many aspects. We get players, members, resort guests, and PGA TOUR executives. They are all well-traveled and expect a high-quality menu offering. We must make sure the menu is designed in a manner that caters to all of their needs- clean, healthy, flavorful, creative, and enough choices to dine in here multiple nights a week.
Does each player have a very special food plan/requirement? How do you cater to all these different expectations?
Chef Azhar: This may come as a surprise, but a lot of players and guests don’t ask for special meals. I am honored to say that most of the guests enjoy our menu creations and occasionally there are some changes that they request, which we happily take care of.
Seems the menu choice at the “Nineteen” is unlimited. What food was a favorite on the menu and why?
Chef Azhar: There are a lot of menu items that I personally love but I believe our superfood bowl is one of our signature items and I personally love this dish. Also, we have butter chicken on the menu, which guests rave about, and it also speaks about my roots. At TPC Sawgrass, we get guests from all over the world that’s why our menu is created with a lot of global cuisine influence.
India is a whole continent of different tastes and colors. How strongly does this influence the menu at “The Players” and how did this determine to choose livecookintable®?
Chef Azhar: Not just India but the whole of Asia plays a major role in our Player’s Championship menu design process. We do curry stations, noodles, Bahn mi, sushi, dumplings etc. Once we knew that livecookintable® will be here before the tournament, I designed the menu based on the cooking modules we were getting. This gave me the freedom to be extremely creative in designing the menu and do a lot of live cooking in the room, in front of the guests. We were cooking noodles, stir-frying, and cooking curries and fried rice on the stations. It was awesome!
In many Asian cuisines, food is a lot about the food preparation in front of the guests. Do you see live cooking as a trend to come more in Western cuisines – esp. luxury properties – Also, what makes livecookintable® so special here?
Chef Azhar: Absolutely. There are so many applications for it even in Western cuisine. We seared our meats and seafood on the stations. Doing live pasta, grilling steaks, searing scallops, possibilities are endless. Once you know what all modules are capable of, this becomes a chef’s playground.
Working on this project, we noticed you follow a comprehensive concept and are very detail-oriented. Can you describe how livecookintable® facilitated this approach?
Chef Azhar: The whole team from livecookintable® was extremely helpful in selecting the equipment, color pattern, design, and modules. Just the fact that we were able to see how the products will look in our club space before we even signed the contract, was extremely helpful. Your team guided us through our list and needs. It felt like a partnership vs a transaction. Going into it, for the most part, we knew what we wanted, and with livecookintable® team’s help, we were able to build a banquet display that no one in the area has. It has given us an edge over our competitors in the region.
How and when did you first learn of livecookintable®?
Chef Azhar: While researching new banquet tables, action station, and presentations, we came across livecookintable®. We wanted something modular and modern. When we looked at the livecookintable® website, we were impressed.
What convinced you to buy it?
Chef Azhar: The product quality, and properties in the Middle East and Europe where it is already in place. Also, it was easy to work with the team on this project.
What industry trends drove for the need to select our equipment?
Chef Azhar: We want to be industry leaders in banquets in the area. Also looking for modular banquet tables which give us the versatility and freedom to do variety of things live for guests.
What excites you about using the livecookintable® equipment?
Chef Azhar: All the different modules that you can use and play with. It gives you the freedom to do more live cooking in front of guests vs traditional banquet equipment.
As a chef, would you recommend livecookintable® to your former colleagues/current clients? If so, why?
Chef Azhar: Absolutely. It looks great, and could be customized to fit in your space. It gives the freedom to be more creative with banquet menus or pop-up kitchens. They just must keep in mind the electricity requirements for the equipment, other than that it great.
What is your favourite function of our tables?
Chef Azhar: The ability to move, versatility like Legos
What is your favourite appliance?
Chef Azhar: The inductive Wok
What is your favourite accessory?
Chef Azhar: The Multipot Pasta/noodle
How did your guest experience change with livecookintable®?
Chef Azhar: We used them in The Players Club this year and the guests love it. Just the feeling of seeing food being cooked in front of their eyes is already a winning strategy. The Airwall made sure there was no smoke or too much food smell in the room
How did your employee satisfaction improve?
Chef Azhar: We still have to get our employees to use the equipment. So far, they liked what we did and once they get used to handling it, I believe they will be in love with it.
What solution were you looking?
Chef Azhar: We were looking for modern, modular banquet equipment that is customizable and fit in our rooms. Also, live cooking was very important for us as well.
What made our equipment stand out over others that you researched?
Chef Azhar: Quality, design, versatility, ease of working with and the team itself.
Was there anything that positively surprised you about our equipment?
Chef Azhar: We are still exploring the possibilities and trying out things that we could do with these modules. The Wok and Airwall have been the two most surprising things. They work really well.
Did our equipment save you money and/or increased productivity?
Chef Azhar: Too early to say definitively but am excited about the opportunity and I believe in the long run, once employees are trained and kinks are worked out, it will save us money and increase productivity from banquet set up team.
In March, the team at TPC Sawgrass Restaurant Nineteen, premiered the equipment at the Players Championship 2022. The guests were happy and the team had a smile on their face all day with the new equipment. Livecookintable® did what it was supposed to; boost efficiency, increase staff satisfaction and enable operations to successfully complete another major event with happy guests.