It's often said that you can stage your home perfectly, but guests always congregate in the kitchen. In many ways, it’s the heart of the home. And that same inviting atmosphere surrounds you in Brook Valley Country Club’s sun-soaked dining room, where Chef Kenric Hunt is often seen greeting guests. Just as the club’s 2015 golf course restoration project brought more people out to play, and clubhouse renovations attracted young families, Hunt’s passion for cooking has delighted members old and new and anchored the community at Brook Valley.
Executing A Vision
“When I came to look at the club for the first time, it wasn’t the prettiest picture,” Hunt recalls. John McConnell had only recently been given the keys, and the kitchen was in a state of disarray. “My wife always says, ‘Look through the mess.’ So I asked myself, ‘Is there something that can be done? Is this something I really want to do?’ The answer was ‘Yes.’”
It took a lot of work in a short amount of time for his vision to come to fruition. “Chef brought a great attitude into the project and upon reopening, he really impressed the membership and local community,” reflects Club Manager Phillip Loney.
One of his early moves was to build a diverse culinary team. Sous Chef Dave Larson, who hails from New England, expanded the kitchen’s repertoire, complementing Hunt’s French-influenced coastal classics with his own specialties. The kitchen offers dishes that members might not serve at home. “You have to think about what makes the experience memorable and exciting for your members,” Hunt explains.
He extends credit for the success to the entire kitchen crew: Ms. Joyce, Ms. Mellissa, Mr. Roderick, Ms. Nea, Dylan, and Sous Chef Dave. “Without everyone working together I can’t be as creative. I’d have to worry about all the parts of each dish, the ingredients, the method, and whether my dishes are clean,” he explains. “Your crew is your backbone.”
A Place to Grow
For Hunt, cooking has always been about people. Growing up, he cooked with his mother, watched his uncles grill at family gatherings, and prepared evening meals for his siblings. “I got my professional start in restaurants, but in that fast-paced environment you only know the table number you’re cooking for, not the people,” he says.
When a friend first told him that he might be well-suited for the private club environment, Hunt admits that country clubs weren’t the first thing that came to mind when he thought about exciting cuisine. Starting at the Ocean Club in Myrtle Beach soon changed his mind. “Going to a private club was a necessity. I needed to slow it down and get deeper into cooking and become more well-rounded.”
That same care in knowing who you cook for comes through for Brook Valley’s members every time the kitchen is open. “It took some time, but we transformed the kitchen into something really special,” he reflects.
Certainly his early life experiences and the close-knit team in the kitchen have the most influence on the cuisine Brook Valley’s members enjoy. However, as Hunt notes, inspiration can come from unexpected places.
“Probably my most memorable dining event was the Chef versus Member Rib Cook-Off in 2015,” he recounts. “There were five teams and we structured it like an official cook-off with judges; the members ate and told us their favorite.”
The collaborative nature of the event was exciting. Those with grills in their backyard have their own special tricks, and Greenville boasts a thriving tailgate culture — so the competition was formidable. Despite the staff’s best effort, they came in second place.
“We had no idea what we were up against!” Hunt laughs. The champion was Brook Valley member Scott Shook, who is a semi-professional barbeque cooker. Bonding over smoke and flame that day, the two became pals, and another cook-off is hopefully in the works for later this year.
The Road Ahead
The team’s passion ensures that momentum gained from the past two years won’t be squandered. As part of an initiative that spans McConnell Golf properties, Hunt is working with a local farm coalition to incorporate locally sourced meat and produce into Brook Valley’s menu.
Hunt’s role in the club’s culinary success brings to mind a familiar theme. As Donald Ross wrote to his protégé and the future designer of Brook Valley’s golf course Ellis Maples, “Give consideration to others, do some good, however small, every day of your life. However humble our work may be, we all have our little niche in this world’s work.”