Jan. 2 cordell q&a

January 02, 2002

Fourth in an occasional series of Q&As with local chefs.

The joy of cooking


After spending time in the Midwest, Phil Cordell decided to return east for some home cookin'.

For more than two years, Cordell has roamed the kitchen of Waynesboro (Pa.) Country Club as executive chef. The Greencastle, Pa., native has been at the club for more than seven years, having returned to the area after studying at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academy of Culinary Arts.

Bitten by the cooking bug as a youngster cooking with family, he got his start as a dishwasher and prep cook at a Waynesboro restaurant.


Now he's in charge of a staff of eight, serving lunch and dinner six days a week, plus breakfast on the weekends and banquets and weddings throughout the year.

The week before Christmas, Cordell spoke with Staff Writer Kevin Clapp about his career path and the joy of cooking.

"I started working in a restaurant when I was 16 and just decided to stick with it," Cordell, 27, says. "It just seemed to fit, just doing cooking with the family and down at the restaurant."

Q: What keeps you cooking?

A:Probably the feeling that people enjoy what you're cooking for them, knowing that they came out and had a good meal.

Q: How is working at a country club different from cooking at a restaurant?

A: The country club would be a lot different. You're dealing with the same people day in and day out. You know you have to go an extra mile to serve something they'll like. You have to cater to your membership.

Q: Is that a challenge?

A: It's a challenge to keep things fresh. We change our menu every week, just to give them a different variety. We see the same people two, three times a week. They'd be tired with the same item over the course of a month.

Q: Does it keep the job fresh for you?

A: It keeps us interested, always trying to find new and interesting dishes to run for them. We try to accommodate them as often as possible with dietary requirements and special requests.

Q: Can you give me some examples?

A: Specialty nights once a month, usually an Italian night or seafood night. We run heart smart selections each week. We pretty much see new trends in the industry, new products.

Q: What is a new trend?

A: I'd say a new trend was coconut shrimp. We do a couple of Emeril Legasse dishes, since he's become popular.

Q: Is there room for improvisation?

A: We're pretty much free to do whatever we think. Usually we like to see what we can use from banquets or leftover products, just take what's around and see what we can come up with.

Our clientele is more of a meat and potatoes, like a homestyle crowd, so we learn what we need to keep with those kinds of dishes.

Q: Is there an example of something new you've tried?

A: We do a Veal and Crab Mediterranean this week, that's sauted veal with crab, prosciutto ham, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and mushrooms. We serve it over a bed of fettucine.

Q: That sounds exotic. How did you come up with that?

A: Pretty much, we had some things around we wanted to use up, some prosciutto ham, and thought we'd give it a try.

Q: Is it fun?

A: I think so. That way you can run different dishes. It gives you a challenge to utilize whatever you have in the kitchen. I get together with the staff and I try to involve them as much as I can with menu items and selections.

Q: Why is it important to you to include staff in the creative process?

A: I feel, because they're doing a lot of cooking also, it gives them a creative outlet and I think they take a little more pride in the dishes when they know they helped create them.

Q: How do different components of a meal complement each other?

A: I think everything should complement each other. Flavors and styles should be pretty much the same or complementary.

Q: How does that work with your recipe for Veal and Crab Mediterranean?

A: We usually serve it with a side of vegetables, a vegetable medley.

Q: Changing gears a little bit. Are you busy right now?

A: Winter is usually slow. December is pretty busy with Christmas parties and banquets.

Q: What is your busy season?

A: The summer months are our busy season, with golf outings and weddings.

Q: Do you have a favorite dish to make?

A: I don't know. ... I'd say our members favorite dish is crabcakes. We are well-known for those. We have members coming from other clubs just to try them.

Q: What is it about them that are so popular?

A: We don't put a lot of filler in 'em and try to make sure they're seasoned the same every time, not too spicy.

Q: How extensive is the menu?

A: We have one set page that's filets and crabcakes and six, seven dishes, and we change five dishes each week.

Q: So, that's a lot of prep work. ...

A: Tuesdays are pretty rough. We get everything ready for lunch and dinner and set up for banquets.

Q: What's one thing someone on the outside looking in wouldn't expect about your job?

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