Tour of country club
An inside look
Culinary Arts students tour Westchester Country Club
Walking into the Biltmore Room at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, a student exclaimed “Oh my goodness!,” taking in the size, luxuriousness and the enormous chandeliers which hung from the ceilings.
Students on the tour were told this room, which overlooks the golf course, is often the site for wedding receptions. It can accommodate up to 160 guests with a dance floor.
For those who may be considering a career in food service or restaurant and hotel management, the behind-the-scenes look at the facility offered an inside look into the industry.
This was the first tour of the club for students at the Center for Career Services. The 35 students were shown two kitchens, one in the main building and the other in the sport center, a room in the hotel and a plethora of dining spaces.
Passing through one of the kitchens, a chef there commented that working at the facility is “like a hotel, a club and Disneyworld all in one.”
The club was the brainchild of John McEntree Bowman who opened it in 1922. His vision was to create a sports club for members who could live at the hotel or in one of the houses on the grounds. Members would have all their needs taken care of by hotel staff, including their meals, cleaning and landscaping.
The highlight of the trip was the luncheon served by staff. Students had an opportunity to enjoy a variety of salads, salmon and cous cous, braised beef and a pasta and seafood dish. Dessert included bread pudding, fruit and a selection of cookies.
Before even taking a look at the entrée selections, Arai Nunez, a student at New Rochelle High School, looked over the dessert table.
“I want to be a baker,” she said, adding that she was particularly excited to see the pastry chefs at work while on the tour.
“I’ve never had cous cous before,” commented one student. “It’s really good.”
“You are not going to want to go back to the cafeteria,” teased Chef Peter Tomaskovic.
“When I get on the bus, I am going to sleep,” Raykeem Adams said, after his second helping from the buffet.
All joking aside, Raykeem, a student from New Rochelle High School, is excited to start his career after getting his certificate in Culinary Arts from the center.
“I appreciate my chef,” he said. “We are pushed to do better, be present.”
Keeping the future in mind was one of the goals of having students visit the country club and tour the site. The facility is always looking to hire help for the busy summertime and currently has openings to assist with banquets, in the kitchen, and on the grounds. The club also offers and offers management internships.
Westchester Country Club Executive Chef Keith Armstrong spoke with students about the importance of teamwork and striving to do better than you did the day before.
“Always analyze what you do,” he said. “If someone corrects you, don’t look at it as correcting. Look at it as an improvement. It’s a competitive business. Always be competitive.”
Having a passion for the work is critical and is something staff carry with them in their work.
“I never forget how special it is be a part of this,” Chef Armstrong said. “It’s like getting up each day for the Super Bowl.”
Banquet Manager Moises Martinez has been working at the club since he was 19 and has held just about every position at the facility.
“It’s teamwork,” he said. “Every day is something new. We have a lot of memories here.”
Mr. Martinez also shared with students how the club plans for events. A three-day men’s golf invitational, he said, has the menu being planned a week before the event begins. The chef and kitchen staff must think about the steak dinner which is served the first night, along with breakfast, lunch, a cocktail hour and dinner on the following days.
In some instances a chef here can work 15-hour days during the busy season. The work requires passion.
“It’s very intense,” Mr. Martinez said, adding the first day alone there are 40 waiters and six cooks working the event.
“It’s a lot to absorb,” commented Chef John Damiani.
Ximena Zarate, a student from Valhalla High School, has been accepted to Johnson and Wales and would like to study hotel management.
“I was really interested when he was talking about having to do a lot of planning,” she said of what Mr. Martinez shared. “It caught my eye.”