Schirle celebrating five years as country club’s chef
by Jennifer Cohron
May 13, 2012 | 1570 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chef Phil Schirle worked with experienced chefs all across the United States before coming to Musgrove Country Club in 2007. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Chef Phil Schirle worked with experienced chefs all across the United States before coming to Musgrove Country Club in 2007. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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One of Chef Phil Schirle’s earliest memories is going through the fields with his grandfather picking out ingredients for Sunday dinner.

Now he tends a small garden on the grounds of Musgrove Country Club so members can experience that same freshness in their meals.

“If chefs take pride in what they do, they’re going to put their best plate forward whenever you sit down,” Schirle said.

The Detroit native began his culinary career at 16. His first job was as a busboy in a diner around the corner from his house.

Six months later, Schirle said he decided that he would rather make the mess than clean it.

Schirle assumed the responsibility of managing one of the shifts at the restaurant before he had graduated from high school.

His family relocated to Knoxville just in time for the 1982 World’s Fair. Schirle worked that event and then moved on to the Hyatt Regency, where he was introduced to upscale cuisine.

His next stop was New Orleans, where he worked with future celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at Commander’s Palace.

After a stint in Baltimore, Schirle received his first executive chef position in 1987 in Jupiter, Fla.

A few years later, Schirle returned to New Orleans and remained there for the next 20 years.

Schirle said that his many travels and the tutors he had along the way more than made up for the fact that he never had an opportunity to attend culinary school.

“I felt that my schooling was going to be learning from a lot of chefs in different regions of the country. So I sought out the best places to work in the areas that I wanted to go,” Schirle said.

Schirle was the executive chef at the New Orleans Country Club when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in August 2005. He was one of the few staff who came back after the storm.

After fulfilling his commitment to help get the club back up to pre-storm standards, Schirle came to Alabama and worked at Inverness Country Club before securing a position at Musgrove Country Club in May 2007.

Rather than making sweeping changes, Schirle spent his first few months on the job assessing areas where small improvements were needed.

He admits that he made a notable misstep early on by substituting his own recipe for grilled chicken craisin salad. The club’s traditional one was quickly brought back by popular demand.

One of Schirle’s many well-received additions to the menu is his Béchamel Crab Cake, which is made with jumbo lump crab meat and a thickened cream sauce that binds the dish.

Schirle said he especially enjoys finding new and creative ways to use ingredients that are familiar to local residents. For example, Schirle recently catered a private function for members and their guests in which every dish except dessert featured the fresh quail that they provided him.

He added that he and his staff are motivated by the thought that chefs are judged plate by plate.

“On a daily basis, we’re always looking to improve and make it just one percent better than it was yesterday,” Schirle said.