Chef Leal (left) and Mr. Haegele, photo credit:  Stephanie Starr

Stamford, Connecticut (May 20, 2021) – Royal Poinciana Golf Club, Naples, Florida, is among the first recipients of the rigorous Golf Kitchen Certification of Culinary Excellence. 

Diana DeLucia, president and founder of the Golf Kitchen brand personally delivered one of the first Golf Kitchen Certification of Culinary Excellence plaques to Scott Haegele, Director of Clubhouse Operations, Executive Chef Juan Pablo de la Sota Riva Leal, and the team at Royal Poinciana Golf Club. 

“The Royal Poinciana staff and its membership have set have set a high bar for excellence in all areas,” said DeLucia, who has amassed ten years of experience reviewing and visiting private golf and country club kitchens. “They have empowered their teams with the framework to continue to develop their exceptional culinary operations.” 

“Royal Poinciana received two great accolades this year—the Golf Kitchen Certification and the Platinum Clubs of America. I am so proud of my team and their commitment to excellence,” said Haegele.

The Golf Kitchen Certification of Culinary Excellence is based on a rigid set of criteria and a club’s ability to produce an exemplary product, as evaluated by an independent review of the entire food and beverage operation, including but not limited to:

  • Environmental practices
  • Tenure of staff
  • Leadership and mentoring programs
  • ServeSafe (food protection) certification
  • Beverage programs
  • Professional certifications
  • Member/guest satisfaction ratings​

“Private club members have no way of knowing when they’re thinking of joining a club, or even when they’re in the club, the quality and caliber of food,” said DeLucia. “This is the first time that a set of standards have been packaged into a certification program for culinary operations of golf and country clubs and will be the new benchmark for excellence.”

The evaluation criteria and process were created by an advisory board comprised of noted private club managers, chefs, and culinary consultants. As part of the process, clubs must apply to be considered for certification, followed by an on-site evaluation and a series of interviews with the culinary team and management.

DeLucia believes that club dining rooms will become the “go-to” restaurants of the future, an observation made even more likely in the era of COVID. “With more younger people coming back to private clubs, in particular younger couples and families joining clubs and moving into golf communities, the club’s culinary offerings are increasingly important,” she said.

For additional information about Golf Kitchen or the Certification of Culinary Excellence, access the website at

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