Catering the U.S. Open golf championship is big business, and local caterers and merchants gathered around dining room tables in Sumner on Tuesday to learn how to get a piece of the pie at Chambers Bay next year.
In the meantime, they settled for slices of Sumner’s famous rhubarb pie.
The audience took notes and listened intently to the star of Tuesday’s event, Susan Lacz, who has run the catering operation at every U.S. Open since 1993. Lacz, chief executive officer of Maryland-based Ridgewells Catering, will again be in charge of catering for corporate hospitality, the clubhouse, players and media when the major golf event comes to University Place in June.
She stood in front of a makeshift vintage kitchen at the Sumner Visitor Center, located inside The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse, as she talked about preparations for the biggest sporting event ever hosted in Pierce County.
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She spoke to about 40 people representing more than 25 local companies — which sell everything from wine and cheese to pies and flowers — while discussing the atmosphere at the U.S. Open, planned menu items and hiring.
“We’ve been tasting things all over,” Lacz said of Chambers Bay preparations.
After just two trips to the Puget Sound area, Lacz says the venue for the 2015 U.S. Open has become her new favorite.
“Chambers Bay took my breath away,” she told the Sumner crowd.
Still, Lacz said the site offers new challenges. Past locations have offered more space to work with across several courses.
“The kitchen will be plopped in the middle of the golf course,” she said.
Ridgewells Catering focuses on locally grown ingredients served by locally hired staff. Lacz told The News Tribune that local flavors are a top priority for her and the United States Golf Association when the U.S. Open descends on a region.
“I want to put money back into the local economy,” she said. “The whole concept is farm-to-table.”
She said her fleet of purple trucks will haul local products into dozens of elaborate white tents at Chambers Bay and prepare an “avalanche of meals” — roughly 40,000 — during the U.S. Open.
The menu will have about 150 items with a heavy seafood focus. Lacz said VIP guests (sorry, general public) can expect salmon of every variety — hot, cold, smoked, candied, and more — as well as Dungeness crab cakes, an oyster bar, dishes with shrimp and cod. Beef and pork will add turf to the surf, and more meatless meals will be available than at past U.S. Opens.
Beyond the beautiful views at Chambers Bay, Lacz said she’s excited to work with West Coast flavors.
“The resources are plentiful,” she said.
After Lacz spoke Tuesday, everyone mingled and tasted samples of local meats and desserts before exchanging business cards in hopes of incorporating their brands into the larger catering plan.
Tommy Marshall and Evan Greco, owners of Puyallup’s Blue Max Meats, said they weren’t sure if they could handle the high-demand production that Lacz stressed. But they hoped to be involved in a smaller-scale opportunity.
“We want to be in,” Marshall said.
Lisa Lovejoy and Bev Utt, who both work for MultiCare Health System but do private consulting work, praised the local catering approach. Utt, a culinary nutritionist, hopes to distribute “food gifts” and tip cards during the tournament to aid athletes’ performances.
“Everybody’s looking to improve their golf game,” she said.
Hiring for servers and other staff has already started, coordinated by Ridgewells Catering affiliate Purple Tie. It will continue into May.
Lacz encouraged interested companies to email her if they’re interested in working the event. She said she can’t promise to include all of them, but “we’re going to try to work with as many as we can.”