Palos Verdes Golf Club has a freshly renovated dining space—a long-overdue move, says General Manager David Conforti (pictured opposite, far left). Coupled with an overall elevated experience from Executive Chef Garrett Yokoyama (pictured opposite, far right), plus plans for a kitchen expansion, the 98-year-old club in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., is ready for its centennial—and the next 100 years.
“Our membership is growing younger,” says Conforti. “If we want to continue to thrive, we need to appeal to every family member.”
Two-thirds of the club’s dining space is now dedicated to more a casual dining experience, reflecting what Conforti believes will be a lasting trend.
The menu is limited but covers the high points: a couple of proteins from land and sea, a few salad options and a few pastas. Standout dishes so far, Conforti says, include Buffalo chicken salad, pasta Bolognese and “anything with seafood that Chef produces.”
Conforti has a history with Yokoyama; the two worked together at a prior club. “Suffice it to say, our worlds re-collided,” says Conforti, “and he’s been here now for three and a half years.”
Club + Resort Chef (C+RC): Tell us about your relationship with Chef Yokoyama.
David Conforti (DC): With respect to our previous chef, [Yokoyama] has turned our culinary program on its head. He’s been wonderful in every way, shape and form. He and I have at least as close of a relationship as I’ve had with other Executive Chefs in my years in the club business. We get along great.
C+RC: In what ways has he changed the culinary program?
DC: It starts with leadership. When Chef came on board, I said, ‘Please do what you can to use the staff we have. [But] if you have to make changes, of course, I understand.’ To his credit, he did not have to change one staff member and, within four weeks, the dishes coming out of the kitchen were more consistent, plated beautifully and prepared with better ingredients.
I am most proud of his efforts to use the staff and resources available to him—and how he’s made the food sing.
C+RC: What are some other strengths of Chef Yokoyama’s?
DC: His demeanor is very calm but to the point. He’s not gruff by any means. He’s always open to feedback but in a professional, constructive way. His track record speaks for itself. When he started, he said, ‘We’re going to use fresh ingredients. We’re going to better source our ingredients. There are going to be menu price increases, but the result will be an elevated dining experience.’
And that has absolutely been the case.
C+RC: What drives food and beverage success at Palos Verdes GC?
DC: It starts with a dedicated, motivated, happy and well-trained staff. That’s the only way we’re going to be successful. From there, our business model relies on private parties from outside groups—a lot of weddings. We have a record-setting year in weddings this year, and we do a lot of community events.
With my arrival, with Chef’s arrival, and then with our new banquet manager, we have certainly focused on upgrading our banquet menu options so when folks walk away from here, they feel more like it was a meal tailored to them and not to a room of 200.
From a member dining perspective, it’s being able to deliver on what they’re looking for, when, and how. We’re getting there. Front-of-house is our challenge. It’s not from a lack of having good managers. It’s just the standards in place at the club are not where I wanted them when I got here, and we’re still working through it.
C+RC: How do you, as a GM, support the culinary team?
DC: The relationship I have with Chef really helps. We’ll engage in light banter. It’s often work-related, but we’ll talk about things outside of work, too. We’ll talk about our respective families. We’ll hang out from time to time and play golf. It seems the staff picks up on that, and they appreciate it. They see the relationship I have with him. It’s positive, respectful and constructive.
And I frequently thank them for their efforts and for being part of the team. They are the engine to make anything in our F&B program run.
I love to spend time in the kitchen—watching the action. Candidly, it’s one reason why I was at the 2022 Chef to Chef Conference in Nashville. I enjoyed learning more about the back-of-house and chef mentality. When I asked a question [at the conference] about how I can continue to support our chef, I meant it.
I’m a big fan of Chef personally and professionally. He is such a treasure for the membership and for the staff. We’re so fortunate to have him.