WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

SHAUN LEWIS 

CCM, CEC, PCIII

Assistant General Manager & Executive Chef

LIBERTY NATIONAL GOLF CLUB

Jersey City, New Jersey

Interview with Matt Ward

BACKGROUND:

 

Shaun Lewis is embarking into his 13th season at Liberty National Golf Club where he holds dual titles of Assistant General Manager & Executive Chef. Since entering the Private Club industry, Lewis has garnered a reputation for elevating the gastronomic scene while raising the hospitality bar. A life-long student, Shaun has received degrees for his studies in Sous Vide and Molecular Gastronomy, as well as certifications as Certified Club Manager, Certified Executive Chef, Pro Chef III and Level One Sommelier. Shaun is also currently in pursuit of obtaining his Master Beekeeping certificate at Cornell University and enrolled in The BAR 5 certification program for spirits, liquors, and mixology.

 

THE LEWIS STORY:

 

My story of emerging into the hospitality business goes back to age 5 when I vividly remember holding my grandfather’s hand while walking to my family’s establishment, the Fireside Inn, in Newburgh NY. I spent many summers there appreciating the warmth and hospitality and nature in the Catskills mountains.

It wasn’t till age 12 when I landed my first job at a pizzeria in Floral Park New York. I lied to the new owners about my age and got a gig cleaning and prepping for the establishment. I remained there up until the time I entered the culinary Institute of America at age 19.
I continued to hone my craft at some of the country’s top destinations all the while feeling pulled to the front of the house. In 2001, I decided to apply my leadership in general management. I joined the Club Management Association America and began a 20-year journey leading to my achievement of certified club manager.

You wake up in the morning – what’s the driving passion?

 

I have a genuine desire for providing great service and leadership on a daily basis. I definitely possess a servant’s heart. I receive great joy from giving to members, staff and the community.

 

Given your varied involvements with different facilities — what’s the chief difference between working at a high-profile restaurant and a private club like Liberty National?

 

I believe the main difference at Liberty National is the focus is on you, the member. We strive for a very personalized style of service. It truly is special.

 

Golf clubs have accelerated efforts in upgrading culinary options but not all have the financial wherewithal to do what you’re able to do at Liberty National. What are some key steps that can be taken at those facilities regarding interesting food choices?

 

I think most clubs could benefit by growing some of their produce and herbs on property. This elevates quality and also has a positive impact on the bottom line.

Describe the process you follow regarding menu choices and the pathway you follow when changes are made during the course of a given year.

 

My menus are driven by the seasons and its offerings. I work with what’s fresh and beautiful. As time moves on, offerings are phased out and new ones appear.

 

What’s the biggest misunderstood elements that people have regarding what you do and what steps do you proactively take to orientate them in this regard.

 

I’m often asked, “how do you do it all and do it so well?” The answer is I have a great team. I make it a point to show off their abilities and attributes every opportunity I get. They are simply amazing!

 

Facilities of all types tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow.

 

Member service is in the way we deliver our “product” on a daily basis. This is an extremely vast topic. My approach is to be proactive while anticipating needs and engaging at all times.

 

What role does customer feedback play in your efforts and can you briefly outline a specific instance that shaped your future actions.

 

We thrive on member feedback. One instance is when trying to elevate a very elaborate and excessive member tournament we had engaged a few key members to be part of an ad hoc committee. This created an immediate “buy in” from membership as they were part of the decision making. It provides me with a better understanding of their perspective and the result was a huge success.

 

Curious to know, when you go out to eat with family and friends what’s the first thing you notice when arriving at the facility?

 

First thing I will take notice of is how I am greeted. Is it warm, friendly and genuine? The next observation will be of the scent and sounds. There are so many things that race through my mind from glassware to staff uniforms.

 

Your biggest pet peeve professionally is what?

 

Cleanliness — it’s an obsession.

 

Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?

 

Early in my career at the Pierre hotel Chef Gerry Gramzay had made it a point to focus on the quality and seasonality of ingredients. “Procure the best ingredients and proper technique and let the food speak for itself.”