One of Us

Darlene Riggs

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Darlene Riggs is one of those volunteers who ensure that THE PLAYERS Championship runs like clockwork every year. Her mission: keep thousands of other volunteers fed so they can effectively carry out their responsibilities — no small task, to be sure. A devoted PLAYERS volunteer for more than three decades, Riggs has been running Darlene’s Diner for most of that time. The food tent provides breakfast and lunch to the hard workers who ensure the tournament’s success.

Tell me about Darlene’s Diner. How long have you operated it? What is its mission?

Darlene’s Diner is THE PLAYERS committee that feeds the 2,500-plus volunteers for the weeklong event. I have been a volunteer with THE PLAYERS for 35 years and chairman of Darlene’s Diner for 25 years. The mission of Darlene’s Diner is to provide a place for the many volunteers to relax, enjoy a good meal and enjoy the company of their fellow volunteers.

How did Darlene’s Diner first get started? 

THE PLAYERS has always had a designated area for their volunteers to get a quick lunch. In 1998, I took over as chairman. We included not only lunch but breakfast as well, and Darlene’s Diner has grown to be a favorite spot for the volunteers. The committee was originally called the Volunteer Tent, and in 2009 I was very honored when they named the committee Darlene’s Diner.

How did you learn to cook and serve meals on such a grand scale? Did you have a background in food preparation before taking on this annual challenge?

Actually, I was a vice president at SunTrust for 30 years but had always enjoyed cooking and preparing food for friends and family. The biggest challenge was to realize that when cooking for such a large group you had to have a sensible menu, so it was figuring out what worked. Over the years we have grown tremendously, for example, breakfast used to be 13 dozen eggs, we now cook over 800 dozen eggs to order for breakfast.

How much preparation is required to accomplish this every year?

I begin in January contacting my food suppliers to make sure they are aware of the forthcoming large orders. We use Sysco, Blue Bell Ice Cream and Publix. The first of February I send each of them an order for the week. Serving good fresh food is a priority with us, one of my must-have items is fresh-every-day hamburgers made by Publix. 

THE PLAYERS sends to me a list of the volunteers who have signed up for Darlene’s Diner, and I work to schedule them to meet their schedules and our needs. Many times, I recruit the assistance of family and friends to be sure to have a full staff.

How much food will you serve during THE PLAYERS?

We will use about 800 dozen fresh eggs, 400 loaves of bread, 2,700 hamburgers, 600 pounds of fresh chicken breast and 500 pounds of chicken tenders. We will make many salads, hundreds of our famous tuna salad and egg salad sandwiches along with many other breakfast and lunch items.

How many people work with you to feed so many people at each tournament?

We will have a staff of around 100 people working in two shifts each day.

What do you like most about what you do?

I just enjoy the people. Over the years I have made lifelong friends and have a treasure box of special memories.

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