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Above & Beyond: Chris Kleinman

We sat down with Chris Kleinman, Egypt Valley’s Director of Food and Beverage Services, to learn about how he got his start, what wine is worth splurging on and more.  

We may even get a bit nostalgic and take a little trip to the past!

What brought you to EVCC?
I started in 2003, in college; I remember a certain prestige and lore anytime Egypt Valley was mentioned, while growing up. When looking through the paper for a job—which is funny to think about!—I came across a post:

“In search of kind, outgoing individuals to join our service team at Egypt Valley Country Club.”

I applied, got a call within a few days, wore my first tie to an interview, and started about a week later as a busboy.

What keeps you coming back year after year?
It has always been the people—whether it was the wonderful team I served tables with in the early days or the members I’ve gotten to know now throughout the years. The relationships and “at home” feeling you get from this place is something I have a hard time describing to people. I legitimately love coming to work and seeing the people I work with and the members I get to interact with and help better their day.

Being a little bit older now and leading a younger group of people has added a different level to my stewardship; it adds excitement that I get to help mold and shape the way they see things here at the club and also take some of those lessons outside in their various paths of life.

How have you seen the restaurant and the dining experience evolve during your tenure at the club?
White table clothes, tuxedo suits, presenting each table with a roll from a roll basket I held, dessert trays, SMOKING IN THE DINING ROOM ... All things of the past! We made a decision to move more toward what you see in our downtown scene and create great food with a focus on comfort, family and friends—a truly great, welcoming home away from home atmosphere.

What’s your favorite item on the menu?
I am constantly teased by staff for how little I eat or how they rarely see me eat while here. When they do see me eat, it’s the most basic items: Caesar salad, clam chowder, curly fries. But something I absolutely love here and—no one can match when it comes to preparation—is a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. If you ever see me in the trophy room, ask me to whip one up for you. It’s life-changing!

What made you want to begin your journey toward becoming a sommelier?
I had a great trip to Oregon in 2017, where I spent four days with industry professionals from all over the world involved with beverage service. I met some great people—some older, some younger—who opened my eyes to the opportunities we have to advance and be part of redefining this industry and setting a new trend moving forward.

Many of the people had aspired to or had already begun courses through the Court of Master program, the standard in hospitality excellence. I came home from the trip with a newfound love for everything involving this industry and signed up immediately to start my journey toward being a Certified Sommelier.

If you had a to pick your favorite everyday wine, what would that be?
I love Pinot Noir. Very versatile: able to be enjoyed on its own, with eggs in the morning, a nice sandwich in the afternoon, Mexican food at night and with a late night snack—all tried and true!

If you’re going to splurge on a bottle of wine, what’s your preference?
A bottle of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from Chassagne Montrachet. Some of the most delicious wines I have had the great fortune to enjoy have been from this area in Burgundy.

What is it most members don’t know about you?
In 2013, an artist I worked with at the time, Rick Chyme, entered ArtPrize and broke the world record for freestyle rapping continuously—for 17 hours and 30 minutes. Rick took a unique approach and achieved something very special while interacting with patrons and various exhibits throughout the festival, armed with a speaker and microphone. I took the lead on this project, piecing together all the details and ways to execute the event, including ways to generate excitement and attention toward our piece. I followed Rick around the city nonstop during this venture; sometimes pushing him and other times him pushing me.

The final minutes of the countdown toward the record that day at the Pyramid Scheme—in front of a sold-out crowd—were the most fulfilling of my career.

Be sure to say “hello” to Chris when you see him around the club. And be sure to try his prized sausage, egg and cheese sandwich!

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