The Apawamis Club’s Christopher Reveron brings precision and passion to his role as Executive Chef.
Christopher Reveron, CEC, WCEC, Executive Chef of The Apawamis Club (Rye, N.Y.), has a relentless drive to improve himself and those around him through action and practice.
He’s been with Apawamis for a decade and he’s had a profound impact on the club’s culinary program and team. He rebuilt the kitchen to be more efficient. He cut ticket times by 40%. He created a training program that inspires growth. He continues to create new menus, leverage smart culinary techniques, and bring meaning and purpose to each dish.
No More Yelling
When subjected to pressure, Reveron finds a way to transform weaknesses into strength. He is humble and hardworking, smart and creative, disciplined and cool-headed. Those characteristics are important to him, and they’ve helped shape the culture of his kitchen.
“I worked for a chef once who told me that my job as a leader was to ‘put the fear of God’ into my team,” says Reveron. “I call it the turtle syndrome—and I don’t believe it works. Fear is not positively motivating. It makes people hide in their shells.
“I don’t yell,” he continues. “I don’t cuss. And I don’t want a team that feels like they have to walk on eggshells around me.”
Reveron started his culinary career as a garrison chef in the U.S. Army before he accepted a sous chef position at The Patterson Club (Fairfield, Conn.) in 2001. He came to Apawamis in 2010 as an Executive Sous Chef and four years later, he moved into the top rank.
“To succeed you have to sacrifice,” says Reveron. “I went from a 7.2-mile commute at The Patterson Club to over 30 minutes with Apawamis. I did it because I knew that the club had more to offer in the long run.”
As Executive Sous, Reveron began coaching, training and mentoring junior chefs. He learned the administrative side of the business, including budget management, purchasing, vendor sourcing, inventory forecasting and planning, waste management, workflows, productivity improvement and quality assurance. He developed and implemented a new purchasing program to ensure top quality and best price.
He created management training manuals to reflect the club’s mission statement and ensure consistent service practices. He developed and implemented a HAACP program.
When the executive chef position opened, Reveron decided to apply.
“I put everything I had into it my tasting,” he says.
As Reveron was walking out of the club that night, briefcase in hand, the General Manager stopped him and told him they needed to talk in his office.
“I walked in and both the club President and the Chairman of the Board were sitting there,” says Reveron. “They told me that they had found a new chef. Then my President stood up and said, ‘He’s standing in the room with us.’ I stood there, realizing what he meant, and then cried like a baby. It was surreal. I’ve come a long way—and my mission is now to bring others along an equally hard-won path.”
Some cases in point: Fourteen years ago, Reveron hired Jose Sanchez as a pot washer. Sanchez is now his banquet sous chef. And Catherine DiQuinzio started with Reveron as an intern. She is now the a la carte sous chef.
“She’s one of the two most talented young chefs I’ve worked with,” says Reveron. “She can work a grill station better than anyone I’ve ever seen. There was one night where we had 220 covers and 113 items came off the grill. Nothing came back over or under.”
Kyle Schutte-Bell, Apawamis’ Assistant General Manager, also attests to how Reveron’s approach is far-reaching. Schutte-Bell focuses on the club’s wine and beverage programs and works closely with Reveron to make sure they are in line with the culinary program.
“He’s immensely talented,” says Schutte-Bell. “He thinks outside the box, and it forces us to be creative. He explains the process behind his food. He inspires us and makes us be better.”
New Kitchen Speeds Service
Soon after Reveron was tapped to be Apawamis’ Executive Chef, he helped to secure the design of a $2.1 million kitchen renovation.
“In the military, there’s no grey area,” he says. “There are clearly defined processes and procedures. Our ticket times [at Apawamis] were out of control, and a lot of that had to do with the layout of the kitchen.
“I documented the process, assessed it and designed a kitchen layout that would help us be more efficient,” he says.
Apawamis retooled the floor plan to be more open. The hot line was moved closer to the egress of the kitchen to be closer to the dining area. The salad station was moved and the banquet line was opened up. The new kitchen allows Reveron to see everything at once and move between stations as needed.
“Jumping on the line has been the most effective way for us to correct errors before they become bad habits,” says Reveron. “I can work with my team, stress the importance of making their stations work for them, and teach them how to be most effective in the moment.”
Brian Baldwin, CCM, started at Apawamis as General Manager/COO a little over a year ago and has spent his time focusing on making the front-of-house service as refined as the food. He’s also given Reveron the creative freedom to push the envelope and be “more himself” than ever before.
“The whole management team carries a passion and energy that’s contagious,” says Baldwin, who was previously Assistant General Manager at Baltusrol Golf Club, where he earned “Rising Star” recognition through the Excellence in Club Management Awards co-sponsored by Club + Resort Business.
“We’re collaborative and focused on serving the membership,” Baldwin says. “We’re all-in on everything we do—from lunch service through COVID-19 response planning.”
Food at the Forefront
Philosophies are well and good, but if the final product—the food—doesn’t live up to the hype, then all is for naught.
“Every plate a chef puts out is like a business card,” says Reveron. “You’re not going to give someone a crumbled-up business card with stains. You’re going to give them a crisp one, fresh out of the box.”
When he took over as Executive Chef in 2014, Reveron redesigned the menus to better reflect current culinary trends and techniques such as sous vide, molecular gastronomy, and farm-to-table. Not surprisingly, his plates are pristine and polished, and the menu is hyper-focused on member preference and personalization.
“Members appreciate how personalized the experience is here,” says Reveron. “It sets us apart. If Mr. Smith wants the filet with the side from the salmon? No problem.”
By paying this level of attention to members, one-to-one, Apawamis was able to increase revenues by 14% and decrease food costs by 5%. The team also increased the club’s member satisfaction score from 65% to 90% over the past six years.
COVID-19 Response Strategy
Reveron likens COVID to the “worst migraine ever.” Even so, nothing has stopped him and his team from creating an actionable response plan to keep members engaged.
“Within one day, we shifted into a to-go model with a shortened menu of 18 items,” says Reveron. “Once we had some road under us, we launched a market-basket program and offered a grocery list.”
From there, the team developed meal kits, specialty ordering programs, and family meal packages.
“We can now offer dining again, but in limited capacity,” says Reveron.
Looking forward, Brian Baldwin, CCM, GM/COO, says the plan is to remain conservative.
“We’re fortunate that we have a large clubhouse, but we are going to maintain outdoor dining for as long as possible,” he says. “We’re not going to budget banquet projects until May of next year.
“We’re going to be very conservative,” Baldwin adds. “We are very aware of safety. We have financial security and we will take care of employees and members. That is our focus.”