“Our menu changes constantly,” said Bland, who joined the Yacht Club in early September.
Gone is every item from the original menu, save for its crab cake sandwich.
Now, the menu is full of mouthwatering entrees such as herb crusted tuna, caramelized rockfish, chicken Chesapeake and farm vegetable risotto.
Each dish features fresh ingredients made from local products. Chef Bland routinely visits farmers markets in Ocean Pines, Berlin, Salisbury and even lower Delaware to buy fruits, vegetables and herbs.
His creativity with every concoction is impeccable; he can instantly transform a dish by adding just a few extra ingredients.
A rich and creamy potato soup changed texture and taste when he added in a sprinkle of cheese and battered onions. Further experimentation with unconventional cooking herbs such as lavender and dark opal basil, a purple variety of the common leaf, create an entirely different flavor.
When adding herbs, Bland simply picked what he needed from a plant he purchased that morning from the farmers market that still sat in its soiled pot.
“Anything that comes out of the ground is cool with me,” the chef said, while explaining he has no specific influences other than the teachings of nationally renowned chefs he has worked with, such as David Kinch and Alainne Chapplee.
“I can find influence anywhere,” he said.
Bland said he does not want to stereotype the Yacht Club as serving a certain type of cuisine, as it diminishes the possibilities of items featured on the routinely-changing menu.
“Food is a thing of flavor and beauty. When you chastise food, no one suffers, except for the guest,” he said.
A native of Baltimore County, Bland said his grandmother turned him onto culinary arts at an early age. Their relationship was strong, as the chef still uses one his grandmother’s knives to prepare dishes.
After being accepted into Baltimore International College at the age of 19, Bland began working with German Certified Master Chef Rudoulph Speckamp, who would become the young chef’s mentor. The rank of Certified Master Chef is the highest achievement possible from the American Culinary Federation.
At the age of 22, Bland was named Speckamp’s Sous Chef; he was the youngest chef to achieve such an honor to date. From there, he worked as a chef for AAA Four-Diamond rated Charles Court at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The chef then worked at highly respected restaurants in cities such as San Francisco and New York City before returning home to Maryland after being offered the job at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club.
Since Bland began working at the Yacht Club, he has not only improved the menu, but efficiency as well by building a rapport between his fellow workers.
“The staff here looks up to [Chef Bland] and respects his background and skills,” said David McLaughlin, food and beverage manager of the Yacht Club.
“We all love Chef Bland,” said expediter Amanda Fox.
Bland expresses the same feelings, as he said the positive influences of kitchen workers such as Vin Cortez and Ryan “Spanky” Ruarke have allowed the kitchen to flourish.
“We’re trying to get a new direction selling quality food with quality service,” McLaughlin said. “Our reputation is a having a tapas menu, and we want to get away from that.”
McLaughlin, Bland and the rest of the kitchen staff are all looking forward to the new building that will begin its construction process once the plan is approved by Worcester County officials.
Cook Donald Usher said he is looking forward to working in a larger, improved kitchen.
"The more kitchen space we have, the more efficient it is for guests," he said.
Once Bland gets settled in, he plans to organize wine tasting sessions. The chef, who is also a level 1 sommelier, will lead the events.
Also on tap are cooking classes. These classes will not only teach cooking techniques, but also preparation techniques such as knife skills.
The Ocean Pines Yacht Club has now transitioned into its off-season schedule, in which it is open Thursday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. until close.
Its lunch menu is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and its dinner menu is served from thereafter, until closing time. A brunch menu is served every Saturday.
On Sundays, its traditional second-floor brunch buffet is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Java Bay Cafe, featuring coffee, frappes, smoothies and more, is open at 8 a.m.
For more information, visit www.oceanpines.org.