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The Right Blend The Bay Colony Golf Club shows off its $6.5 million clubhouse renovation with a gourmet dinner demonstration. By Kathy Becker • Photography by Gareth Rockliffe, Soderquist Photography

Chef Wilhelm Gahabka’s free-form breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto form the basis of an artful hors d’oeuvre presentation, served in a vase. Opposite: The salad is a Maine Lobster Trilogy with Lobster and Caviar Flan in a Golden Egg, Lobster Salad and Lobster Maki Roll.

The idea was to give Gahabka a kitchen worthy of the food he prepares.

The main course: Applewood Smoked Bacon Wrapped Venison Loin, Lavender Mustard Glazed Rack of Rabbit, Forest Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini Blossom in a Shiraz-Poached Seckel Pear Reduction.


eave it to Don Gunther, an avid collector of sports memorabilia, to explain in sports terms why a renovation to the 15-year-old Bay Colony Golf Club was necessary. “We had a baseball team, but we didn’t have the field,” says Gunther, who is on the Club’s renovation committee and former Club president. “We needed a new field.” Six years ago, the team was built by bringing Jerry Thirion, formerly of LaPlaya Beach & Golf Club and The Registry Resort, to manage the Club. Thirion convinced star chef Wilhelm Gahabka to follow him to Bay Colony Golf Club. “I’ll never forget the first time I showed him the kitchen,” Thirion says. “He looked shocked, but it wasn’t because of love.” The original kitchen was designed for making grill items like sandwiches, soups and

burgers. German-born Gahabka, a winner of two Florida Trend Golden Spoon awards when he was chef de cuisine at Lafite at the former Registry Resort, was used to bigger, more complete kitchens. He came to Bay Colony, though, on the promise of change. “In bringing in Jerry and Chef Wilhelm, our members realized we had the best chef, but a tiny little kitchen. He was trying to cook for 150 people out of a closet,” says Rick Miller, president of the Club’s board of governors and chairman of the renovation committee. As the committee began talking about necessary updates to the building, they decided on a major renovation instead of cosmetic changes only. “We realized we were essentially a one-event club,” Gunther says. “We had one big room connected to the bar. It was restricting us a bit. We formed a committee.”

Above, clockwise from top: Foam flavored with orange and ginger offers interest and flash to dishes. The menu takes shape even as Chef Gahabka puts it on the plate.

Dessert is a Chocolate Hazelnut Perla served with Gran Riserva Aceto Balsamico and 24-karat Gold Lacquered Raspberries; the cookie “legs” are a whimsical element typical of Chef Gahabka’s creations.

Gahabka calls the new kitchen his Ferrari of kitchens.

The idea was to give Gahabka a kitchen worthy of the great food he produces, and make the Club more user-friendly, with a variety of venues for many different types of events. The planning began with Club members meeting with Peacock & Lewis Architects to make sure everyone had input and understood the scope of the project before voting on whether to proceed. Of the 300 members, nearly 70 percent agreed to spend the $6.5 million on the building and another $1.5 million on an irrigation system for the Club’s golf course. Work by D. Garrett Construction, which included adding to the building for the kitchen, began in January 2009 and was finished by November 1. Although the timing may not have been the best given the economic climate, it did help planners get more for the money than they probably would have if the project had been done during the building boom. “We did this during the most difficult time, but we have come out stronger financially, and our membership is very strong,” Miller says. “We feel like we’ve renewed the Club.” The old kitchen equipment was refurbished and moved to create a downstairs kitchen that is used for prep work, employee lunches and providing hot food to the downstairs Patio and Men’s Lounge. Now the Club features the Dining Room with several movable partitions that divide it from the Grille Room, as well as from the adjacent Private Dining Room. The upstairs Terrace was added for outdoor seating, and torches light the downstairs Patio at night for outdoor cocktail gatherings. “We can partition people off in the main Dining Room and still have an event in the Grille Room,” Miller says. “We have a lot more capability for parties and member events, like receptions, weddings.”

Top left and center: It’s all about presentation. Top right: The Private Dining Room. Above: Prickly Pear Marinated Scallops with Foam are presented with illuminated dry ice.

Club members enjoy cocktails on the new Patio overlooking the 18th green. Above, left to right: Larry Fagan, Hicks and Evelyn Waldron. Ellen Perkins, the Club’s director of food and beverage, Jane Cohen and Jan Eveleigh. Jan Eveleigh, Rick Miller and George Lorch. Opposite page: Hors d’oeuvres, torches and sunset on the Patio.

“We couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time,” Thirion says. “Now we can have three events on the main level, plus activities downstairs.” Gahabka calls the new kitchen, the first in his career he was able to help design from the beginning, the Ferrari of kitchens. “When chefs come to see the kitchen, it’s almost embarrassing to show them all that I have,” he says. Still, he’s so proud of the kitchen that during the Club’s grand reopening celebration the buffet line wound through it on a red carpet. The old line prep area was about one-third the size of the one in the new kitchen, which features some of the newest innovations, including a computer-controlled oven that bakes, fries, steams and roasts, and is so sophisticated, Gahabka can communicate with it from his home computer. With the expanded space, the Club was able to add cooking

classes, which always sell out, another night of dining, and a fine dining night. A bigger dance floor has seen much activity at the Club’s parties, which are more popular than ever. The Clubhouse complements the golf course, which has been tweaked through the years and was also improved in the renovation. Without tee times, golfers are paired by the pro with other members, providing quick introduction to new members. The changes and renovations helped foster a tight-knit membership. The Club’s members organize trips together during the summer, work on charitable pursuits—including being a major supporter of the Immokalee Foundation—and gather often at the Club. “At some clubs people seem to stay in the same groups,” Thirion says. “Here you are more likely to see people pushing tables together. This is a club that plays together, works together, invests together and travels together.” u

9740 Bent Grass Bend | Naples, FL 34108 | (239) 592-9515 |

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Feature story from Naples Illustrated Magazine

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