John M. Corey, GM/COO, has been with Genesee Valley Club (Rochester, N.Y.) for more than 28 years and has seen the club’s F&B operation evolve and expand to become its cornerstone amenity.
When you’ve spent your entire professional career with the same club, to say you know the operation inside and out is an understatement. Such tenure gives you profound perspective into the club’s identity, while allowing you the trust of the membership to move forward.
This is John Corey, General Manager and COO of Genesee Valley Club (Rochester, N.Y.). Twenty-nine years ago, Corey started at GVC as a busboy. Over the subsequent three decades, he climbed the ranks, and didn’t miss a step along the way: busboy, food runner, server, bartender, short-order cook, snack-bar cook, supervisor, dining room manager, receiving clerk and service manager (a position similar to assistant general manager).
In January of 2017, Corey (a recipient of the “Rising Star” Award in 2009, through the Excellence in Club Management Awards co-sponsored by C&RB), was promoted to his current post, where he and Executive Chef Michael Macri, CEC, have been hard at work shaping the future of GVC’s food-and-beverage program.
CRChef: Having worked in nearly every clubhouse position available at GVC, you bring a unique perspective to your role. How does that experience add value?
JC: I’ve walked the walk, so when I ask something of the team, they know it comes from a person with first-hand experience and knowledge about all the inner workings of this club. I’ve also had the opportunity to work alongside many of our tenured staff members. Some have been here even longer than me. We have mutual respect. This team has been a huge part of my personal growth, and collectively we are all responsible for the club’s future.
CRChef: you’ve worked with seven different chefs at GVC, including chef Macri, who started his career there in ’97. How well do you know him?
JC: I was a dining room supervisor when [Macri] began here as a line cook. We worked side-by-side for years and got to be very good friends.
He eventually left GVC because he wanted to take on the role of Executive Chef in a traditional country-club setting. First he went to Brook-Lea Country Club (Rochester, N.Y.), then to Cobblestone Creek Country Club (Victor, N.Y.). During that time, I was promoted to GM, and we were in the market for a new Chef.
I ran into [Macri] and was fortunate to discover that he was eager to return to GVC. And we were just as eager to have him back.
CRChef: Before you discovered Chef Macri was interested in returning, what were you looking for in a new chef?
JC: We wanted someone who understands the unique needs of a city club. We needed a chef who not only follows trends, but knows how to apply those trends to an operation in smart and effective ways. We needed someone who is passionate about food, hospitality and mentoring.
CRChef: How has GVC sustained its culinary program through all of its chef transitions?
JC: Many of our staff members have incredible tenure. For example, our Maître D’, Genaro Felix, has been here for 47 years. Our foundation is deeply rooted in certain characteristics sustained by these individuals that have made us successful, like focusing on taking care of our members above all else, and mentoring and challenging our staff to constantly improve and grow.
CRChef: How do you think Chef Macri has improved the operation since his return?
JC: Every month there’s a new menu, with trendy daily specials. He created a health and wellness menu last summer. He is focused on elevating the quality and perfecting the cooking techniques that our culinary team uses.
CRChef: What do you respect most about Chef?
JC: He loves what he does, and it shows. He has a can-do attitude and drive in him that pushes him to grow as a chef and leader. He’s passionate about cooking and he goes out of his way to enrich the member experience in the smallest details. He’s very caring, too. That’s evident in how he mentors his culinary team.
Much like myself, he’s a believer in hard work paying off. We’ve both been given great opportunities over the course of our careers. And we want to pass those opportunities on to the people who deserve them most.
CRChef: How do you support him?
JC: A day doesn’t go by that we don’t connect and talk about how things are going. I think our friendship and professional respect for one another goes a long way toward supporting each other. I know when to let him take charge. Likewise, he is comfortable asking for help or advice when needed. I also encourage [Macri] and other staff members to take risks. I try to empower this team to make good decisions.
CRChef: What’s your favorite dish of Macri’s?
JC: His chicken française—a Rochester classic—is amazing. His mama’s meatballs are also really good. Actually, everything he makes is really good, but his chicken française is my favorite.
CRChef: Your beverage program at GVC has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. Can you tell us more?
JC: We’ve revamped our cocktail program and now we use fresh ingredients and mixers. We’ve also standardized our recipes, so we’re more consistent within our beverage program. We rotate our draft beers more frequently and offer beer tastings to encourage members to try these new beers. We have expanded and improved our wines-by-the-glass list, by listening more closely to what our members want and offering them the opportunity to try something new, while keeping club favorites intact.
CRChef: What role does F&B play in the success of GVC?
JC: It’s the cornerstone of what we do here. Our food and beverage revenue is up year-over-year. This tells me that we’re satisfying our members and making sound decisions that are moving us forward.
CRChef: So what’s next for GVC?
JC: I’d love to grow our private dining business. We have eight beautiful private dining rooms that are perfect for business meetings or gatherings. We’re also looking to offer more boutique member events, such as scotch and bourbon dinners. We’ve found that we get a lot of traction when we offer more events but keep them smaller and more intimate. We also are able to drive demand by “selling out” of these smaller events.