Summing It Up
• Spice up your dining options by hosting a guest-chef event.
After two instant 60-seat sellouts at $250 a plate, this all-star culinary event will now be an annual affair.
What do you get when you put four stellar club chefs in one kitchen? You get one unforgettable dinner menu and professional experience, according to Michael Redmond, Executive Chef at Genesee Valley Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Earlier this year, Redmond invited three of his colleagues at properties that, like Genesee Valley, have earned the Platinum Club designation, to come to Rochester and help create a special dinner that would dazzle his members. In addition to their ability to help put together and present a wow-inducing menu, Redmond says he selected the high-caliber guest chefs based on “their commitment to educating and honing the skills of our young [culinary] employees who share their passion for fine foods.”
Included on Redmond’s wish-come-true list were Executive Chefs David Jarvis of The Chicago (Ill.) Club; Robert Fasce of The Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pa. (at the time of the event he was Executive Chef of the Sailfish Club in Palm Beach, Fla.); and Executive Pastry Chef Jim McNamara of Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Initially, Redmond admits, the Genesee Valley Board had concerns about the cost of staging such an extravagant event, which included expenses and gifts for the guest chefs. But those were soon put to rest when opening night for the $250-per-person, 60-seat adventure sold out within 24 hours. The next evening’s encore presentation was also a quick sell-out.
Richmond attributes much of the event’s success to the support of an eight-person committee made up of some of the most passionate food aficionados among the Genesee Valley Club membership. These members helped to plan the dinner, talked up the event to their friends, and invited them to a gala kick-off cocktail reception. Information about the dinner was also included on the club’s Web site.
Limited seating also played a part in making the event particularly buzzworthy among club members, Redmond says. And an early reservation policy gave the club’s sommelier the opportunity to procure “some very rare wines [see menu, pg. 41] that are not usually available in local restaurants.”
Lessons Lent and Learned
For the guest chefs, two days in Redmond’s kitchen meant double the educational opportunity for themselves, as well as for the Genesee Valley staff.
“The first day we spent a lot of time with our noses to the grindstone, doing all the prep work and getting accustomed to being part of a new team,” observes Jarvis. “By the second day, we could focus a little more on how the other chefs did things.”
“We all face similar issues in our day-to-day operations, and it was good to be able to see how someone else handles them,” he adds.
Fasce was also impressed by an outing Redmond organized to introduce the guest chefs to some of the area’s other top restaurants.
Prior to the big event, e-mails and phone calls flew back and forth across the country, as the four chefs planned the nine-course menu. Each chef took on the challenge of creating two courses, plus an hors d’oeuvre.
“With so many skilled chefs, each course was equally thoughtful and intense,” McNamara says. “We were all able to learn something from each other.”
Because of the inaugural event’s overwhelming success, Redmond says he now plans to tap into the Platinum Club network to invite new chefs each year and make the Guest Chef Dinner an annual event at Genesee Valley Club. And not surprisingly, his Board now fully supports the effort.
Better yet, the success of the Platinum Chefs dinner also has inspired a group of members at the club to form a Gourmet Dining Society that will organize other food-centric events throughout the year. And Redmond believes the energy generated by the event will also have long-lasting benefits for his culinary team.
“My staff has worked with me for years, so it was refreshing for them to work with other high-powered professionals,” he notes.
To make sure the guest chefs’ staffs also had a chance to reap the benefits of the collaboration, Redmond had professional CDs of the event produced. Upon his return to Pennsylvania, Fasce showed the CD at a meeting of his own staff.
“It’s a great idea for how upper-end clubs can network and get out of our own yards and see what’s going on in the rest of the world,” he notes.
Since the event, in fact, Fasce has already reciprocated by having members of Redmond’s team visit his kitchen at The Rolling Rock Club. Down the road, he plans to offer his staffers similar opportunities to visit affiliated properties, for an up-close-and-personal look at how other clubs do things. C&RB