Executive Chef Phillip Beneditti strives to always provide a comfortable and familiar dining atmosphere for members of The Peninsula Golf & Country Club.
The Peninsula Golf & Country Club (PG&CC) was founded in 1911. Its golf course is the only one designed west of the Rockies by the legendary Donald Ross, who also created Pinehurst #2, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills, Seminole and Merion. At the club’s inception, memberships could be purchased for $25.
A total renovation and seismic retrofit of the clubhouse took place in 1994-1995. PG&CC now has 820 total members (350 proprietary).
The club’s Executive Chef is Phillip Benedetti, who has been at the helm since 2004, following a long stint with the posh Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Phil grew up, like many chefs, in the kitchen of his family’s restaurant.
During a very busy time of year for him, Chef Benedetti was kind enough to answer some questions about how he strives to help make PG&CC a “home away from home” for its members. He also provided some great recipes, including one for a new special “Chef to Chef Extra” on wine pairings.
Phillip Benedetti CHEF PROFILE
Current Position: Executive Chef, The Peninsula Golf & Country Club, San Mateo, Calif.
Q Phil, your members must have many options to dine out in the Bay Area. Tell us what you do to stay current and competitive, and keep those a la carte sales at PG&CC.
A You’re right about the many great restaurants in the Bay Area. In my opinion, the key is not to try to compete with the many fine-dining options that are available. Instead, we strive to maintain a warm and welcoming home-like atmosphere at PG&CC, where members know they can get consistent, good food made with the freshest ingredients at reasonable prices. Additionally, I create diverse menus aimed at satisfying all the members’ palates—from bridge players to young children. Finally, I maintain a personal relationship with the membership, so they know they can request substitutions or even old menu items, and I will happily accommodate them. My goal is to help create a “home away from home,” where the members always feel comfortable and cared for.
Q Chef, PG&CC is renowned for all that goes into its wedding packages, from the great venue to the food quality and service. What do you think sets you apart from your competition for this important revenue?
A What sets PG&CC apart from the competition is our absolute team commitment to our members and guests. This starts with our General Manager, David Nightingale, and extends down the ranks to the hard-working dishwashers and housemen, all of whom work tirelessly to make sure all of our members and guests are always accommodated.
In the events category, our wonderful catering department is incredibly efficient and willing to work with anyone who wants to plan an event and enjoy our many first-class facilities. And personally, I am fortunate to have a kitchen staff filled with good people who truly care about the product they serve. Even better, this is characteristic of all of the employees at the club, as we all take pride in maintaining the quality and prestige synonymous with PG&CC. When people decide to hold events at our club, they know their event will get the full attention it deserves from the entire PG&CC team.
|The Peninsula Golf & Country Club has built on the reputation of its Donald Ross golf course to also become a premier Bay Area events venue.|
Q Chef, all of us would give our left arm to have the fresh local products and organics that are readily available to you from nearby farms. How do you go about showcasing this incredible resource?
A Yes, we are certainly lucky to have the many resources provided by the Bay Area. To ensure that my members benefit from these unique and quality foodstuffs, I maintain close relationships with the local purveyors. This helps me keep only the freshest and healthiest products on my menu, and also stay up to date with the newest additions to the local flavor. I also attend regional food shows and farmers’ markets, so I can make new contacts and taste new products. Even though I incorporate many of these foodstuffs on my daily menus, such as Petaluma trumpet mushrooms, I like to showcase specialty items during popular club events, so these unique items are made accessible to the larger member population. And while everyone may not have the same access to local resources as I do, I also keep my own garden during the summer months, so members can have fresh, literally home-grown produce at special summer events. This is something everyone can do.
Q Phil, can you share with us a little bit about your involvement with students from The California Culinary Academy? Also, how does this relationship benefit PG&CC?
A Through the student externship program at The California Culinary Academy, I am able to share my culinary passion and knowledge with the future generation of chefs. It’s a truly rewarding experience. Additionally, by holding the students to the same standards as any other cook in my kitchen, I help them build upon their classroom knowledge with real-world culinary experience. For many, this results in a new career perspective, because they are better informed of the many demands, challenges, and rewards that go with being a professional chef.
From the perspective of PG&CC, this externship adds another team member to the kitchen who can offer the latest culinary knowledge to aid our small and efficient staff. So in my opinion, it all amounts to a win-win-win.
Q Finally, how awesome was it to be selected by the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to go to Beijing for a California Foods Festival and while there, get to cook for First Lady Hillary Clinton?
A It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the time, I was the banquet chef at the historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco. To prepare for the Beijing California Foods Festival, Chef Franz Dajeman of the Beijing International Club Hotel requested a chef from the Palace Hotel to supervise the creation of a California Cuisine menu, which would doubly serve to honor the Clintons’ first visit to China.
I volunteered for the month-long assignment, without any expectation of getting the opportunity to cook for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. In fact, for security purposes, I did not know of her luncheon at the hotel until the day before, giving me little time to prepare. However, after her lunch, Mrs. Clinton graciously met with Chef Dajeman and myself and thanked us for the wonderful meal. Although I have cooked for other dignitaries, this event remains one of the greatest cooking experiences in my career.