TPC Sawgrass chef readies for THE PLAYERS

Event is about much more than golf for local food banks, other nonprofits

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Chef Azhar Mohammad, senior executive chef at TPC Sawgrass, and his team are already in high gear as they prepare the kitchens for another busy TPC season.

Mohammad was born and raised in India, where he received a degree in hotel management from the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology.

After spending more than 20 years travelling the globe to serve in the hospitality industry/culinary operations for restaurants, lounges and banquet facilities, he was offered a position with TPC Sawgrass nearly four years ago.

Mohammad expressed his newfound love of the golf resort industry, noting the moment he toured the facility and met the staff, he knew he was in the right place.

“The company is phenomenal,” Mohammad said. “Their philosophy is great, and they always do the right thing.”

During last year’s PLAYERS Championship, Mohammad and his team were unprepared when the COVID-19 pandemic went into full effect, canceling the tournament halfway through. The entire week’s worth of food/catering was already laid out, and Mohammad’s team did not know what to do with enough food to feed almost 10,000 people, but a solution was quickly discovered.

“The leadership team wanted to put it [the food] to good use,” Mohammad said. “We could not store it. It needed to be used in a way that was beneficial.”

The solution came in the form of a massive donation to a local nonprofit food bank and hunger relief network located in the Jacksonville area, Feeding Northeast Florida.

Susan King, CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida, said The Players delivered a “fire brigade” with three-and-a-half tractor-trailers and 22 tons of food.

From FNEFL, the food was then proportioned into serving sizes and delivered to a large agency partner, the Sulzbacher Center, a homeless shelter with four locations in Jacksonville.

“That food donation was a lifesaver to us, from a timing perspective,” said Cindy Funkhouser, president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center. “That really helped us get through the initial hurdle.”

Mohammad and other TPC staff/volunteers personally visited the Sulzbacher Center on March 14 to distribute the food to those in need.

“It was great to see the food going to the right people,” he said. “It is just a phenomenal feeling.”

This year, Chef Mohammad and the TPC team volunteered their time by visiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville to join their head chef, Vernetta Stewart, in preparing freshly cooked meals for families staying in the facility.

Along with this donation, Mohammad said the TPC leadership team again plans to work with Feeding Northeast Florida by donating all leftover food to their organization once THE PLAYERS is finished.

“You could see the happiness on their faces,” he said, speaking of the Ronald McDonald House guests. “That is what we do, what we work for.”

With THE PLAYERS just next week, Mohammad has a clear plan following new CDC guidelines and restrictions.

“Our main focus this year is to make sure that everybody is safe,” he said. “We do not want to dilute what The Players and The Players Championship is about — the experience. We execute it to the same level even with these guidelines.”

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