Mac Engel

Colonial’s decision to dump Tim Love feels personal

Chef Tim Love, shown in 2013, admitted he made mistakes while catering last year’s Colonial but was adamant he could fix it if give the chance.
Chef Tim Love, shown in 2013, admitted he made mistakes while catering last year’s Colonial but was adamant he could fix it if give the chance. Star-Telegram

You missed this but you will care — the most famous chef in Fort Worth is not being asked to cater our fair city’s most popular party this year.

Mr. Tim Love, who catered the 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, is not coming back for the 2015 version, May 18-24.

There was considerable chatter that Colonial would give him the contract for the Frost Park Plaza outside the gates of the venerable course, but that’s gone, too.

Last year’s inaugural efforts by Love’s company at Colonial were deemed such a disaster that, despite the man’s close relationships with many of the people who run the tournament, he is not coming back.

There is no route around the uncomfortable truth that the 2014 Colonial was absolutely brilliant entertainment with the exception of the food and booze services.

Anyone who was there remembers the concessions horror show at Colonial last year, and then it became a source of gossip for the next few months. Think train wreck on PEDs.

That said, Tim Love should not have been fired after just one year. The man deserved another crack at this to correct the mistakes that were made on his first run at Colonial. He didn’t get it because people love to eat at his restaurants almost as much as they love to complain about him.

He screwed up once, but to deny him the chance to fix it seems premature, and unnecessarily personal.

For the record, I have met Tim Love one time, back in 2002. I think. It may have been 2000. Also for the record, he and I went round and round last year after I was highly critical in print of the catering services at the tournament. (Too bad I can’t run those exchanges — that material is smashing.)

I have dined at his restaurants in Fort Worth, and paid my own way for the food that bore his name at last year’s event. I recommend Lonesome Dove to any in- or out-of-towner as one of the best restaurants in all of DFW. His Love Shack offers a great burger, and I have enjoyed The Woodshed’s atmosphere more than once.

That is why I felt justified in being so critical of the catering services last year. You see Tim Love’s name, you pay Tim Love prices, and you expect Tim Love food and the same type of service offered at his restaurants.

This time last year, the tournament was boasting that it had landed a top name to run its food and drink services. It was ostensibly a giant win/win. Colonial had a national brand name chef as its caterer, one who is on a first-name basis with the CBS voice of the tournament, Jim Nantz. At the tournament’s “soft opening,” the food was good.

But when the tournament began, it quickly went bad. Patrons were greeted by horrendously long lines just for beer, and food that was not up to the Tim Love brand name.

It was the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding tournament. The weather was cooperative. The play was solid, and ended with a memorable Sunday comeback by the then-No. 1-ranked player in the world, Adam Scott, who won in a sudden-death playoff on 18.

The only downer was the food and drink. Tim admitted he had blown it, but was adamant he could fix it.

My contention was there was no way to deliver his brand on that scale. The better route was to dumb it down and go simple. Love disagreed. If it was done right, it would be a major score.

Corporate sponsor Crowne Plaza, which is in the final year of its contract with the tournament, complained. Fans complained. The volunteers who ran the food and drink stands complained. Other sponsors complained. All of the complaining eventually grew too noisy for the Colonial board, which cut ties with Love despite the initial pledge to keep him for 2015.

It should have kept him.

Crowne Plaza, which is not expected to retain its title sponsorship with Colonial after 2015, was going to pull out regardless of the caterer. Those things are inherently fluid. The tournament is already in discussion with an automobile company, and that should be locked up soon enough.

Love’s ejection has all the makings of a lot of people who simply do not like one of our great city’s most polarizing figures. I told Love it appeared to me that people took delight in the fact that it was his catering efforts that struggled. Colonial spectators were not happy waiting 30 minutes for beer, but it sounded as if it was worth the wait because it was Tim Love. It gave them a reason to kick him.

For 2015, Colonial is instead returning to traditional food services that normally run the concession areas. Spectrum Catering and Concessions will handle it now.

People who attend these events are not expecting Lonesome Dove; they want cheap, quick, easy and something that will absorb the often copious amounts of alcohol.

Maybe a repeat effort by Love at Colonial would have resulted in the same disaster, although I doubt it. He deserved another swing, but he won’t get it because he is the rare animal whose admirers love to enjoy his work and complain about him at the same time.

There was potential for a wonderful relationship. Instead, it’s done when it should have had another shot.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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