I’ve had the unique opportunity to witness this special city club in the heart of downtown Cleveland evolve into something truly unique.
A few months ago, I was sitting at my desk when my phone rang. I looked down to see the name Scott Spencer on the screen. It took me a minute to place him. Then I remembered—Scott Spencer was my point of contact at the club where I had my wedding reception nearly a decade ago. Why would he be calling me, I thought.
Intrigued, I answered. After some niceties, he cut to the chase. The Union Club of Cleveland was on the brink of something huge, and he thought I should know about it. Their new chef, Arnaud Berthelier, was about to take the American Culinary Federation’s Certified Master Chef exam and when he passed, the Union Club would be the only club on record with two CMCs on staff.
I thanked Scott for the tip and told him to circle back after Chef Berthelier had taken the exam.
A few weeks later, he called again. Berthelier had passed. It was story time, so Scott invited me to the club for lunch to meet Chef and his new boss, Lawrence McFadden. Naturally, I went.
Walking into the Union Club was somewhat surreal. I have very specific and fond memories about my experience there. And while we’ve featured the club a handful of times in the years since my wedding, this was my first time back inside the building in nearly a decade.
I met Scott, who introduced me to Melissa Lias, Director of Marketing, and Lawrence McFadden, GM/COO, who couldn’t have been more gracious and kind. Lunch was outstanding, beautifully plated with big, clean flavors. And it was fascinating to learn more about how the club has changed and evolved, as well as the plans the staff has for its future.
Afterward, we went into the main ballroom where the club’s Chef de Cuisine was presenting the new menu to the entire staff. Berthelier was standing to the side surveying the room. As I was walking toward him, I noticed a perfect sous vide egg on one of the dishes, so I asked him what temperature he cooked it to.
All of a sudden, this very reserved and humble chef, who I had interviewed on the phone and again at lunch, was giddy. He was willing to talk with me about all sorts of culinary tips and tricks. He even invited me back into the kitchen, where we compared cameras and talked more about his dreams for the future.
A few weeks later, Lawrence invited my husband and me to attend one of Chef’s Community Table dinners. It was outstanding. Chef nailed it and the club’s Beverage Manager, Linda Wenninger, was a charming, witty and entertaining addition. (She’s also extremely savvy about wine.)
They say change is difficult. And I’ve had this internal struggle accepting the new Union Club, because the old one holds a very dear spot in my heart. But change is an opportunity to do something amazing. And they are. So here’s to the new you, Union Club. I can’t wait to see what you do next.