Executive Sous Chef Diane Consavage of Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York, USA
Where did you go to Culinary School?
I graduated from the Culinary Institute in 2004, and worked in a lot of New York City restaurants, the most notable being Keens Steakhouse and The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center.
For whom did you work at The Sea Grill? That is an incredible restaurant.
I worked for Ed Brown at The Sea Grill, and he was like a mentor for me. When he left to open Eighty One in 2007, I left as well. I left the city and started working in Greenwich at the Homestead Inn with Thomas Henkelmann. Next, I moved to The Bedford Post Inn, which was owned by Richard Gere. In 2010 I re-connected with Ed Brown at Eighty One, so I moved back to the city, but was only there for a year and a half when Eighty One, unfortunately, closed its doors. I bounced around a little after that, gaining exposure at restaurants like Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park and Tom Colicchio’s Colicchio and Sons in the meatpacking district. Eventually, I wanted to get back to Westchester County and came to work at the Westchester Country Club.
You have learned from some incredible chefs. How has that influenced your career?
It’s been phenomenal! As I got older, I realized that bouncing around so much might not look great on paper, but ultimately it’s probably been most beneficial for advancing my career.
How did you get the job at Winged Foot?
In 2014, after I left Westchester Country Club and was working at Bronxville Field Club, Rhy was looking to hire a Sous Chef, and he called Joe Albertelli from Westchester CC. Joe said, “Oh, you know, I know this girl that used to work for me that might be a fit.” They passed along my information and Rhy reached out to me, and here I am! Westchester has an excellent culinary program with some very high standards, so I also learned a lot in my three years there.
Tell us about the transition, from a chef’s perspective, from a city restaurant to an upscale golf club kitchen like Westchester or Winged Foot?
To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into at Westchester since I had never worked at a country club. I felt like, “Really? A country club? I just applied for what?” My mother said, “No, you have no idea what this is about.” So, I did my homework, and I was like, “Okay.” I had never been nervous on an interview before, but I was so stressed out I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was a grandiose place, and everything that they had to offer was great, so it wasn’t like I was losing anything. Anyhow, I got the job as restaurant Sous Chef, and I was still able to maintain my a la carte dining world while learning the aspects of banquets, event functions, and even outings to some degree, but it was on a much larger scale. My experience at a catering company helped in the transition as well. At Westchester, we had to maintain very high standards in a very demanding environment.
That’s the great challenge. Here at Winged Foot, I still get the a la carte aspect and a great creative work environment. That seems to be the thing, you know? I think that, back in the day, country clubs weren’t so much about a la carte. It was burgers and fries. Now I get to have the best of both worlds, using my restaurant experience and continuing to grow with that, and then learning and dabbling with new experiences. At a restaurant, if you worked a party, the restaurant usually closed, so you weren’t doing both. Here you have the challenge of doing both at the club simultaneously. I’m excited to be here because once I left Westchester, I wasn’t able to find a demanding environment with such high standards, until now. I like the feel of that pressure, that constant pressure. Being here is good.
The new kitchen?
Oh, my God! It’s like a dream for me. It’s phenomenal. That’s not something you experience a lot in the city, at least not in kitchens that you come across every day, so it’s a treat, a definite treat, whether I saw the old one or not. I think it’s perfect for our team also, kind of like our home, house, and family. You know, you moved everything into it, and it’s yours! You know where you put this and where you put that. I think that allows you to feel a bit more connected to it even though it’s brand new. We’re breaking it in together as our own, so it’s cool. I’ve never actually experienced that, and I know that Rhy put a lot of heart and soul into it.
Who were your mentors during your career?
I would have to say, Ed Brown. His words as he was teaching me still stay in my mind, and I can still hear his voice in my head. It was very meaningful for me to have that type of relationship. Joe Albertelli, the Executive Chef at Westchester CC, and Gerald Ford, the Executive Sous Chef, who now works at the Everglades in Florida, were also inspiring for me and very helpful in my growth.
Are you enjoying working with Executive Chef Rhy Waddington?
Oh, my gosh-I love it! I love that our personalities are similar, which makes it very easy to work with him, and he’s curious about food like I am. I could tell in one of my interviews with him about his passion for food. I was hoping that I got the job because I was thinking, “Wow, I might get to work with somebody who has the passion that I have.” It’s just not always easy to find that kind of situation, so I was very excited when I got the job, and I’m having a great time. Now that I’m here, I’m like, “Wow! Okay.” It’s almost like I’m like a spoiled kid again! It’s an incredible feeling, and it’s good to know that everything is available to you.