By Sarah Campbell
Each morning when the crystal chandeliers light up, a flurry of activity descends on the back portion of the Carolina Dining Room.
It’s 5 a.m. and about a dozen Pinehurst employees are methodically moving about setting up the famous breakfast buffet.
As three long rows of tables go up, black cloth is draped across each one. White overlays are added to finish the look. Next, stainless steel serving dishes are placed along the center tables to store hot foods like grits, bacon and biscuits.
It’s obvious each employee knows exactly what to do.
Alton and Shelia shine the silverware and meticulously fold dozens of cloth napkins.
Nicholas pours hot water into the serving dishes to ensure the food will stay warm throughout the four-hour breakfast window.
Shekia rolls out a cart filled with bowls of fruit and arranges them along the back table while Wanda places an assortment of freshly-baked pastries at the other end.
Thomas sits a large bowl of eggs behind him as he readies his omelet station.
“It’s a lot of preparation in such a short period of time, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Laura, the Carolina Dining Room’s morning manager. “We are lucky to have such a great team.”
The scene inside the kitchen is slightly calmer. It only takes about five chefs to prepare the daily buffet. You read that right, five. Most of the chefs arrive at 4:30 a.m. and immediately begin cooking as much of the prep work is done the night before.
On this particular morning, the chefs need to make more than 200 breakfast sandwiches for a group, so Chrissy and Jacqui were recruited to help Sous Chef Cindy get the job done. The women move quickly to form an assembly line that includes slicing the croissants, scooping freshly-scrambled eggs onto each one, adding a slice of cheese and securing the sandwiches with a fancy toothpick before wrapping.
Meet a few of the chefs who help make the breakfast buffet a daily success.
Thomas cooked up about 100 made-to-order omelets during a recent morning.
Guests are always raving about Thomas, but it’s not because he makes the best omelets (which he does, by the way). It’s because he’s one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. When he sees a guest approaching his omelet station, the corners of his mouth stretch out into a giant smile.
Thomas has been working at Pinehurst for 18 years, but he’s spent the past 6 out front making omelets. He prefers chatting up the guests to being behind the scenes.
“I like to see them happy and I like to see them leave with an omelet in their hand,” he said.
Thomas doesn’t have a favorite omelet to make, but his favorite to consume is one filled with sausage, mushrooms and cheese.
But honestly, his top breakfast foods are simple.
“I’m happy if I can grab a cinnamon roll,” he said. “If you give me French toast, I’m good to go.”
Tony arrives for his shift when most of the kitchen staff is heading home at 10 p.m.
He works overnight to bake the pastries and breads served on the buffet each morning. During a recent shift, he made seven dozen Danishes and 24 dozen cinnamon rolls.
“Everything is made from scratch, even the batter,” Tony said.
The pastry chef, who has been working overnight at Pinehurst for the past 15 years, said he makes up to 2000 rolls each shift.
When he’s finished with breakfast pastries, he starts baking hamburger buns, rolls and crackers for the lunch crowd.
Before coming to Pinehurst, Mike worked was an Army chef.
“I spent five years cooking for generals,” he said.
Now, that is high stress. Rising early is no problem for Mike thanks to his background.
“I was in the Army so long I can change my schedule around very easily,” he said.
Mike made 40 pounds of bacon during a recent morning. He’s oftentimes seen peering inside the oven to make sure it’s cooking just right.
The resort uses between 20 and 120 pounds of bacon each day. That includes the pork for the buffet as well as that used on sandwiches at our various dining outlets.
When Shekia isn’t in the kitchen slicing up cantaloupes, strawberries, honeydew and a variety of other fruits for the breakfast buffet, she’s at home studying.
Currently a pastry student at Sandhills Community College, she hopes to one day make wedding cakes.
“I’m happy to get this experience working with so many great chefs,” she said.
Standing over a hot stove, Charles works to get the shredded hash browns perfectly crisp.
Flipping them over every so often, he keeps an eye to make sure they don’t overcook.
For Charles, getting to work by 4:30 a.m. is a breeze.
“I’ve always been a morning person and I’ve always liked to cook,” he said.
Note: These numbers are for one specific day. The actual numbers vary and are higher on a busy day.