One year later, big changes are helping the Hastings Country Club
It was one year ago when the Hastings Country Club announced that some major changes were on the way. The course had turned semi-private, the membership rates had dropped dramatically and the restaurant had opened to the public.
All the changes were made to strengthen the club. Membership had taken a dip since a major remodeling project caused rates to be raised, and the club needed to get some more dollars flowing to the bottom line.
It appears the changes are working.
"We're very optimistic," club president Keith Anderson said. "It seems like we have a plan in place that's really starting to work. It's starting to play out and generate some interest. It's helping to bring some additional revenues to the club."
Golf membership dues were among the biggest changes last fall. The prices were lowered with the hopes that more Hastings residents would get back on board with the club. That has apparently worked, as the club now has about 125 new members, many of whom live in Hastings.
"The Hastings residents have been very receptive to the change," Anderson said. "Obviously, we found something that works here, or is more attractive than it was."
Rates will stay the same for 2012.
"We're going to continue (with those rates). We need people around here to make it function. It's just a much more enjoyable place to be when there's a lot of people around.
"We want to keep the people who joined, and we want to keep the rates attractive for people who are thinking about joining."
The course itself will remain semi-private. Members get to play all the golf they want and they get the first crack at tee times.
The public can play, too, on a per-round basis, subject to availability.
Prior to last year, only members and their guests could play the course.
Anderson said it has been hard to gauge how popular this is with the public since the first two months of the season (April and May) were plagued by such poor weather.
"We got off to a very slow start in April and May, and that was entirely due to the weather," he said. "It has picked up considerably in June and July."
Some packages are set to emerge this fall that are for Hastings-area residents who are not members. The rate will include golf, a cart and dinner.
One year ago, the restaurant at the country club opened to the public. It will remain so, Anderson said.
In April, a new executive chef was brought on board. He is Raphael Perez, who had previously been the chef at the Northfield Golf Club.
The restaurant features soups, salads, casual dining options as well as steaks and seafood.
"There's something for everyone," Anderson said. "He's very good at what he does. He's a very skilled chef and has been very well received."
Perez was born and raised in Mexico City to parents from Spain and Brazil.
His mother cooked an array of dishes, and his cooking curiosity was piqued at an early age. He'd often help her around the kitchen as she crafted homemade dishes with an international flair.
His mother, though, passed away when he was just 16, prompting him to take the lead in the kitchen for his family.
"We went from eating all these wonderful meals to eating anything we could make for ourselves," Perez said. "I tried to make it a point to learn how to cook so I could eat those meals my mom used to make. Ultimately, what I like most about cooking is that it brings those memories back."
Cooking, though, wasn't the only route Perez considered for employment.
He went to college for business and spent nearly five years as a stockbroker. He always wanted to get into cooking as a profession, though, and took a step in that direction when he came to the Twin Cities and studied at Le Cordon Bleu. He finished his studies in Paris at two restaurants that had earned a coveted three-star rating from Michelin. He traveled through Italy and Spain, then came back to the Twin Cities where he worked at the Dakota Bar and Grill, W.A. Frost, Vincent and California Café.
He then landed a job at Midland Hills Country Club and shortly thereafter was married. Perez moved to Northfield, his wife's hometown, and six months later earned the position at the golf club there. He was there for more than six years before coming to Hastings.
Perez is slowly and deliberately making changes to the menu. He's making sure the dishes on the menu are all crafted as well as possible, and he's paying special attention to the ingredients that go into each meal.
"Clubs don't like too much change," he said. "When a change like this happens in the kitchen, I understand it's a little difficult to break the ice. We're just trying to take the things people like here and make them better with new techniques and better ingredients."
Kari Jo Hurst is another new face. She is handling sales and catering for the wedding and banquet business.
"She's very skilled and well-versed in addressing the service part of the restaurant," Anderson said. "We want to expand the wedding, banquet and catering business."