What would possess someone who has been working in the big leagues — literally — in New York City to move 1,235 miles south to a fledgling community like Babcock Ranch.
For David Katz, the decision to leave his job as director of premium food and beverage services at Yankee Stadium to take over as Babcock Ranch’s food and beverage director was simple: “Not many people can say they are building an entire city from the ground up. This position is very exciting for me.”
Combine that with the fact that he’d met his Peruvian wife in Fort Lauderdale. When they moved to New York, they vowed that when their two sons neared school age, they would head south once again. With their older boy turning 5, it was time to make that move and the Babcock Ranch job became available.
“It seemed like the perfect position,” Mr. Katz says. “There’s so much on the horizon.”
He brings with him an impressive food and beverage pedigree, beginning with his first job in high school flipping burgers and making fries at a Long Island, N.Y., McDonald’s. Over the course of 25 years, he worked at the Olive Garden in Times Square, Planet Hollywood in New York City, Hilton hotels and a number of other venues. At Yankee Stadium, he oversaw the full-service restaurants, the catering department and suites where events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and high-end corporate events took place. (“There’s a lot more to it than beer and hot dogs,” he says.)
He arrived at Babcock Ranch in mid-August and concedes that this job is about 180 degrees from where he began.
“I think it’s interesting that I started off in an hourly position in high school to earn some pocket change on the side and it ended up becoming my career,” he says.
Nonetheless, farms played a role in his life when he was growing up in Commack, a Long Island community with farms and wineries nearby. He has fond memories of them and is happy to be someplace where farm-raised produce is considered standard practice.
In the weeks during which he’s been on the job, he’s begun getting to know the Babcock Ranch culinary team and has been reviewing the Table & Tap menu with Executive Chef Julian Cardona.
“We’ve made a few tweaks,” he says, “but it’s not a full-blown brand-new menu. It has some of Chef Julian’s new creations.”
The restaurant also has a new frozen drink machine, so frozen strawberry daquiris and pina coladas are now available, something he thinks pairs well with the tropical feel of the lake that borders the Founder’s Square establishment. With the weather getting a bit cooler and less humid, there’s now a steel drummer performing outside on Saturday afternoons.
While Table & Tap has been open for lunch on Sundays, a Sunday buffet jazz brunch is coming soon. And Mr. Katz is excited about the potential for additional venues as the community grows.
“There are many new things coming,” he says. “There needs to be more options. Residents here desire more, and our goal is to give them more.”
Meanwhile, he likes what he’s seeing.
“There’s definitely a great feeling of community here,” he says. “There’s such a welcoming feel when I drive to the ranch on Babcock Ranch Road. I see people jogging, kids riding bicycles. It’s what I remember doing when I was growing up — and that’s heartwarming.”