By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Are you looking for a pizza or handcrafted burger to satisfy your hunger, but don’t want to leave base to buy them? Fret no more because these and other homemade food items are now available at The Club right here on base.
Joe Zamora, 21st Force Support Squadron Club chef, and Kirk Dunning, his sous chef, continue their plan to bring pleasant changes to The Club. From offering pizza to an improved buffet to gourmet burgers, several changes took place at the base eatery in 2014 and there are more to come. All have one thing in common: they are delicious.
In the spring, Zamora and Dunning spoke about changing some of the menu items aimed at drawing in people who don’t normally eat at The Club. The duo wants to provide homemade, fresh foods to the base, upping the quality of menu items at the same time.
“Since we’ve been here we are trying to increase the quality of the buffet and catering food, trying for less pre-made and more handmade food,” Zamora said.
Following that particular path, The Club rolled out new gourmet hamburgers beginning Jan. 6. A half dozen burgers make up the lineup and feature bigger handmade burgers — opposed to pre-made patties — bigger buns and different toppings.
“It is more or less what you would get in a brew house,” Dunning explained.
“It is more than a burger with tomatoes and American cheese,” Zamora added.
Another of the changes that took place in 2014 was making pizza available at the venue and for pickup. Fresh, handmade pizza with a variety of potential toppings is a significant addition to Club offerings.
“We have a new pizza oven ordered that will help make it faster and help with deliveries,” Zamora said. The Club is planning to launch pizza delivery on base during dinner and lunch hours sometime in 2015.
Another pizza related change is coming soon. The Club offers 10-inch pizzas currently, but just for the Super Bowl they will sell 14-inch pizzas as well. While the plan is to only offer the larger pies for the big game, Zamora and Dunning didn’t rule out the possibility of the larger size finding a permanent place on the menu.
A more noticeable change in The Club’s dining experience is the revamped buffet table.
“We got new equipment and a more contemporary design,” Zamora said. “We updated the salad bar and the steam tables.”
Some longtime club events continue to be successful. The guest chef event remains popular as do the cooking sessions for kids. The Kids Cooking Camp in April was a hit and the kids BBQ Cooking Camp slated for Jan. 17 was sold out almost as quickly as registration was opened.
Zamora and Dunning are barbecue experts so it is no surprise that the potential addition of a smoker to the Club’s equipment inventory excites them.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed on that,” Dunning said.
Diners at the eatery are pleased with the food and menu changes Zamora said. There are a number of people who haven’t come in to the Club to eat in a couple of years or so, but are coming back now which makes the chefs happy.
“People tell us they are glad we’re here and they recognize us,” Zamora said.
It makes Curtis Clayton, Club manager, glad too. He estimates sales in the dining room were up 7 percent to 10 percent for 2014. Zamora said keeping costs down while increasing sales has been the goal all along.
The increase is seen in the mix of customers, Dunning pointed out. Regular members, new members and an influx of diners not using the facility before are apparent to him.
“We are seeing a bigger mix. We see a lot of regulars, but we are seeing more people from the buildings on base come in instead of leaving base,” he said.
Zamora, Dunning and Clayton are not content to rest on the progress The Club has experienced so far. They continue to collaborate on future changes to the menu at The Club and Stripes Pub, located in The Club, as well as to catering services.
“We are still thinking about what we can do,” Zamora said. “What we don’t want to do is get lazy in our planning. We always try to be creative.”
With numbers up, on-base pizza delivery and new barbecue equipment on the horizon making a visit to The Club could be one New Year’s resolution that you will keep.