It was a bit of a challenge for Chef Chris Reveron when he came to the Apawamis Club six years ago. Even though he’d spent years in the military (including 25 months in Iraq), it was hard to get used to a kitchen that held equipment from almost 30 years ago.
But with the help of HAFSCO, Chris has turned the Apawamis Club kitchen around, creating an open-flow workspace with state-of-the-art equipment that makes his job much easier and more productive.
Charged with feeding demanding club members and guests, Reveron found it even more challenging to make the transition from traditional club food to more fresh and innovative menus, especially with the old design of the kitchen and its equipment.
“Our goals were to create a new kitchen that would enable our team to expedite our banquet service,” noted the Apawamis Club General Manager Rory Godfrey. “We did our research and we saw the track record that HAFSCO has created with the great work that they have done for so many clubs in our area.”
“It was the big old meat and potatoes when I came to the club in 2010. But as the years went on, I began to come out of my shell. I have some members today who will come here and dine and feel like they’re in lower Manhattan,” he said proudly.
Going from a New York Strip with sautéed asparagus and potato dauphinoise, Reveron turned the menu around to the new “build your own plate” concept. “You can take that one New York Strip and turn it into six different entrees. You can choose your own vegetable from 6 different items, your own starch from 6 different items. How about your own sauce for your steak? You can choose one of four different sauces. So, literally I leave it up to the membership to build their plates exactly how they want, from cooking, to production, and whatever sides, anything that they want,” he explained.
That’s brought the membership satisfaction rate through the roof. “Because, when you’re in clubs, a lot of the members expect you to build a menu, based on your talent, and what I think fits right with the proteins, starch, and vegetables. So giving them this opportunity to build their own plates gives them a little more leverage. And it makes them feel a little more special at the club, that they’re able to have a steak char-broiled, pan-seared, just baked, however they want it.”
Very traditional chefs are usually set in their ways, so it’s not going to work, according to Reveron. “But when I had the opportunity, I just jumped right in. It was a challenge because it was new for the front of the house and for my culinary department,” he noted. “You take a ticket of four entrees that’s about six inches long and it takes a little longer because every plate is custom made. It took us about two to three months to get acclimated to the system, but it just works great. It’s so much better for the
Reveron also developed a Wednesday night treat, a recipe for a ricotta beignet, with a fresh house-made chocolate sauce sent out after dinner, gratis, to every table. “Wednesdays are the beginning of our week, so usually sales are small but we have increased sales by about 20 to 23 percent,” he declared. He also prepares an amuse-bouche, compliments of the house, on Saturdays. But you can’t do any of this without the right equipment.
“When I first walked in, the equipment was just so broken down. The average age of our earliest piece of equipment was about 17 years old and the oldest, 26. It was a very aged kitchen. One of the biggest hindrances of the job was trying to produce with the volume that was coming in with the aged equipment. You had pilots and burners that weren’t working or blowing out the right BTUs,” he recalled “You had ovens that you would set at 450 degrees but would never go past 375. So, there were a lot of obstacles and challenges in that kitchen. Because of my military background, I jot down notes all the time as to what I would do if I had the opportunity.”
And he got it. During the design phase, Reveron worked side by side with Tommy Capobianco at HAFSCO, whom he’d known his entire culinary career. “And I trust him because this is his forte when it comes to designing the flow of the kitchen. What we accomplished is the best adult playground that any chef could ever wish for!” Reveron exclaimed.
When anyone walked into the Apawamis Club kitchen in the past, the hotline was furthest away from the egress to the kitchen. “So, my first instinct is, that hotline is in the wrong place. It needs to be closer to the dining room so the food can stay hotter longer. It’s a pretty long walk from my kitchen to the main restaurant. And initially, the pot washers and dish sinks were completely separated, dishes in the front, pots in the back. I decided to make that station whole, so, number one, you’ll have constant personnel back there washing. It’s just cleaner. It’s almost like the front of the house and back of the house battle all the time. There’s a pot washer and dishwasher battle. So now they have no choice but to work with one another and get accustomed to that,” he pointed out.
Moving the hotline closer to the kitchen allowed Reveron to have two production lines, one for a la carte, and one for banquet. “But I needed to be in a place where I could observe both at any given time, because I can be doing a wedding of 250 and still have a la carte with 140 reservations between the three restaurants.”
So he worked with Capobianco to open the kitchen up. “It’s an open floor plan. Now both the banquet and a la carte lines are visible from one standpoint, wherever I need to be, so I can run both operations at once,” he stated.
Reveron gave as an example at the United States Seniors Golf Association Tournament, which the club does every year. “About 550 guys and it’s a three-course plated meal. I’ve timed it from my first year here, and it took us 47 minutes,” he said. “Now we’re down to 26 minutes, plating and getting the 550 fed. In the military I was always taught time management equates to success in any facet of business and it’s very true.”
The chef is very proud that, with the new equipment, and his ability to manage his time and production, the kitchen has been able to decrease the amount of time it takes to get dishes out by 50%. “That way everyone knows where they are, what they’re doing station-wise, and the way that I operate everything is in black and white for every event. If I have my cold team plating salads, they’re all in green. They know they don’t have anything to do with the yellow coded, or the red coded. So, they stay in green. I break it down that way. I’ve had other chefs come in here and help me for events, and one calls me ‘the OCD monster’ because of how organized I am,” he acknowledged.
Reveron also has All-Clad in his kitchen. “You want that All Clad on that burner and within 30 seconds, that pan can be at a smoke point. The Montague charbroiler as well. We turned over from a radiant to infrared, which decreases your cook time and sear time by 50%. These are some of the charbroilers that Wolfgang Puck uses at his restaurant.
This year for the State Senior Golf Association Tour, using the charbroiler, not one steak of 550 was sent back to the kitchen because it was either under- or over-cooked. “One of the gentlemen looked at me and said, ‘Chef, how the hell did you do it? Every steak was cooked beyond perfect.’ It’s such a fail- safe piece of equipment, you just can’t go wrong,”
HAFSCO helped out when the Apawamis Club moved to the farm to table model, as well. Using a farm created by former employees, Reveron gets food grown specifically for him. “All of our arugula is organically grown, all of my micro greens, heirloom tomatoes, five by six tomatoes.”
That’s where HAFSCO comes in. The kitchen had all the refrigeration it needed, but it had to be moved. For all the fresh produce flooding the restaurant, space had to be ample, and available. “I couldn’t do it without them,” Reveron concluded. “You don’t meet owners of companies like that who are so involved in every aspect and facet of their business. Together, we’re a winning team.”
“They have a great ability to quickly get on the same page with us. You could see the expertise in the questions they asked and the drawings,” the veteran club manager Godfrey continued. “We would use HAFSCO again in a heartbeat for future projects.”