LA QUINTA, Calif. — On Thursday, PGA Tour star Tony Finau was in his comfort zone, on the golf course ripping drives and sinking putts.
Two days earlier, though, he was in an unfamiliar setting, cutting avocados and slinging eggs at Chula Artisan Eatery.
Finau is an ambassador for American Express, the title sponsor of the PGA event played in California this weekend, and each year they spotlight a local business to link up with and do something fun. That’s why on Tuesday morning, Finau had an apron on and was learning what it takes to be a chef at a busy restaurant. And even though the entire thing was being videoed by the PGA Tour for its social media, this wasn’t just a photo opportunity. Chef and owner Katherine Gonzalez put Finau to work.
“He was so gracious and kind and relatable,” Gonzalez said of her star pupil for the day. “He came in with his big smiling face, and he said he could smell the food outside before he even came in. He was anxious to eat, and I said ‘We have plenty of food, but first we’re going to put you to work.’ And seconds later he had an apron on working alongside me and it was so fun.”
After his opening round in the American Express on Thursday, a 4-under 68 at La Quinta Country Club, Finau talked about his unique opportunity to be immersed in the kitchen of an active restaurant and learn what it takes to get all that food out to the customers. In short, he loved his time at the brunch-lunch spot that highlights Mexican cuisine.
“It was incredible. One of my dreams growing up was to be a chef, being in the kitchen with my mom and my grandma so that was cool to be in the back of the restaurant and see how it operates,” Finau said.
Finau said he was amazed at what he saw back there in terms of the knife skills and the organization, but he felt like he was able to hold his own a little.
“I was pretty good at putting the food together on the plate, not sure how good I would’ve been at making it. Mexican food is not my specialty when it comes to cooking, but overall it was just a great experience,” said Finau, who said he’s more of a grill-master at home. “To be able to watch how they do it at a restaurant that has a high quantity of customers. I’ve always wondered what they do when they are really busy and how they get the stuff out.”
And what did he contribute to the operation exactly?
“It’s a little bit like an assembly line. All the food is hot and fresh and you just…