9 swing thoughts with Belfair Plantation’s Bistro chef Lakeysha Marshall.
Story by David Gignilliat + Photography by Rob Kaufman
Belfair Plantation’s Bistro chef Lakeysha Marshall has a knack for finding things. At a very young age, she found a potential career path, learning to bake from 4H and to cook from her mother. She later found the skills to be a chef in Atlanta, getting elite culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu. She found her cooking chops at a variety of Southeastern hot spots (including Atlanta and Savannah), working at elegant hotels and restaurants. In the Lowcountry, she found a mentor and career encouragement at Colleton River Plantation under the tutelage of Chef Robert Wysong. “He made me want so much more out of my career, and pushed me to want more out of a career,” she said.
And then, one fine day, she found the opportunity at Belfair (and perhaps her favorite find), where she is the no-doubt, do-it-all leader at the private community’s Bistro. She is the maestro of pizzas, sandwiches and specialized vegan offerings.
Last year, Belfair tapped the Statesboro, Ga., native to be the Bistro’s first chef, and tasked her with creating an accessible, casual oasis amidst the community’s luxurious confines. Built around light, comforting fare, the Bistro opened Oct 2, and has been a smash hit, as purely struck as a three-iron up the East Course’s link-style first fairway.
LOCAL Life spoke with Marshall recently about her top-flight observations about the (Low)country club restaurant life.
Getting the proper balance
“It’s been a better balance with life working here. At the country club, it’s a little bit more upscale, but it’s more of a balance. You’re not working 14-16 hour days. You’re working 10-12 hour days, and you work 50-60 hours a week, but you have your days off. And that’s nice.”
Imagine your shot:
Designing a country club menu
“It’s comfort food, but not complete comfort food. Nothing like fried chicken, or mashed potatoes. But, it’s things that members might go out into Bluffton to grab. Instead of running to some fast food place, they can come to the Bistro and get a pizza, or get a great salad or burger, or even just a sandwich.”
Picking the right club (sandwich):
Making menu cuts
“I want to know what the guests are loving, what they’re not loving. And so I take the items that sell the least, and I look for something kind of like it, but different; something more flavorful, something for a different palate.”
Getting feedback on your approach
“The feedback that I have gotten from all the members is ‘this is the kind of menu that we’ve been looking for. This is the kind of food that we’ve been asking for.’ I try to keep the food in that realm.”
Repeating a swing:
A personal touch
The type of repeat clientele that frequents the Bistro gives a friendly, outgoing chef like Marshall an opportunity to become more than just the person that prepares their pizza or sandwich, but something more — a friend.
“You get to know the same people, because you’re part of a community. The members know you by name. They know who you are. They know about your family. They get to know me on a little more personal level, and not just a work level. That’s what I like a little more about the country club scene.”
Learning the game:
A chef’s journey
“When I was in school, I thought ‘Well, maybe I could go into the culinary arts. But will I make money, and will it be worth it?’ And then I finally jumped. And I did it. And I’ve loved every bit of it ever since. It’s been great. I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve learned a lot of great lessons, professionally and in my personal life. So I just love what I do. Honestly, I don’t know what else I would have done. When I realized I could do this and make it a career, it’s been the only thing that I ever thought about.”
Advice from other chefs
“As much as I loved culinary school, the things that stick out the most are the things that I’ve learned from chefs on my way to where I am now. The chefs who were a little bit hard on me, who expected a little more of me, who gave me a little more of the responsibilities, those are the experiences that stick out to me the most.”
Being a good leader
“I feel like I am fair and I am stern to my employees. I understand that we are all grown, and that we all have jobs, but I am stern because we are all here to produce every day. We laugh together. We joke together, and when it’s busy time, we work hard together. And when you’re doing a great job, I’ll tell you ‘great job.’ Don’t take anything personally, because it’s high-tension, high-production. Anything that takes place in the kitchen is never personal, and just enjoy what you do. Be happy about it, be proud of what you do, and constantly, constantly want to know more. Ask the questions.”
The full swing:
A chef’s big picture
“I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing members enjoy the food we create in the kitchen. And then I get excited when my line cooks can create it in exactly the same way that I have imagined. And then when the servers can sell it, and explain to the guests what they enjoy about it, it’s just very satisfying to see something that started off in your brain, and then on scratch paper, then go to a menu. And then people enjoy it. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Belfair –Veggie melt
Panini bread, buttered on one side
2 slices of Swiss cheese
2 slices of cheddar cheese
3 ounces sautéed onions
3 ounces sautéed mushrooms
3 ounces sautéed peppers (red and green)
2 ounces arugula
2 tablespoons olive oil
Directions  Heat baking sheet to 450 degrees.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (3-4 minutes)  Add mushrooms and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Stir in arugula and cook until wilted (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat.  Place bread slices, butter-side down, on the baking sheet. Evenly distribute the sautéed vegetables over the slices, then top each bread slice with a slice of Swiss and a slice of cheddar cheese.  Finish each sandwich with a slice of bread and return the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling (about 5 minutes).  Half each sandwich and serve with crispy waffle fries. PRO TIP: Dip your fries in the spicy aioli or jalapeño ranch recipes on page 99.
Belfair – Southwest salad
Roasted corn and black bean salsa (recipe below)
Crispy bacon bites
1/2 avocado, sliced
6 shrimp, blackened
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Dressing (recipes below)
Directions  Top mixed greens with salsa, bacon bites and tortilla strips.  Arrange shrimp, avocado and cherry tomatoes on the side of the salad bowl.  Serve the dressing of your choice on the side.
Ingredients (roasted corn & black bean salsa)
6 cobs corn, grilled and cut off cob (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 can of roasted red pepper
2 bunches cilantro, cleaned and chopped
1/4 cup key lime juice
3 jalapeños, diced small
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions Arrange ingredients as pictured.
Belfair – Artichoke fritters
1 can artichoke hearts (18 ounces)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup seasoned flour
Oil (for frying)
Directions  Drain can of artichoke hearts. Soak in buttermilk until ready to cook.  Drop artichokes in seasoned flour, then deep fry until golden brown. Served with spicy aioli (recipe below).
Ingredients (spicy aioli)
1 gallon mayonaise
1 carton coconut milk
1 jar Kimchi
1/2 jar Sriracha
Directions Blend all together. Keep refrigerated.
Ingredients (jalapeño ranch)
Your favorite ranch
2 bunches cilantro, cleaned and chopped
Directions Roast jalapeños on the grill. Leave seeds in and blend all together with your favorite ranch.