Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Cornerstone Pub chef Kristina McSheffrey, center, in chef's uniform, is new head of the kitchen at the Country Club of Barre, where she poses surrounded by her new team members at the club. Behind McSheffrey from left are the club's golf pro Roger King, holding his daughter, Nell, 1, Cornerstone Pub partners Keith Paxman and Rich McSheffrey (her brother), and the club's head groundskeeper Bill Evans.
PLAINFIELD — In what may well be a prelude to future expansion, the Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen has picked up a seasonal gig running the restaurant and bar at the Country Club of Barre.
In the culinary world it is the golf equivalent of “laying up” — a safe play that does nothing to harm the business Cornerstone partners Rich McSheffrey and Keith Paxman have quickly popularized in downtown Barre, while providing them with another historic venue to continue building their reputation for delivering good service, good food, good beer and a good time.
It’s an opportunity that made too much sense to pass up, according to McSheffrey, who says while he and Paxman aren’t yet ready to seriously entertain offers to bring their Cornerstone concept to other Vermont communities that day may come.
“It (expansion) is in our mind,” he said. “We’ve got a concept that’s perfect to go into a city that’s either up-and-coming, or that’s maybe been perceived as being ‘rundown’ or ‘on its way out.’”
According to McSheffrey, the partners ignored similar observations about Barre before setting up shop in the heart of their hometown last year and have since been approached about the possibility of opening up a Cornerstone in communities like Rutland and St. Albans.
“We’ve got people coming at us from all angles, (but) we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew,” he said.
Enter the Country Club of Barre, where, McSheffrey said, a “handshake agreement” turned into one-year arrangement with the potential to blossom into something much more.
“It could be a good long-term relationship,” said McSheffrey, who stressed that he and Paxman are hoping to inject a little of the Cornerstone into the country club without creating a pub and kitchen in Plainfield.
“It’s (going to be) a spin-off of what we do at the Cornerstone,” he said, noting that while many of the menu items will be familiar to patrons of the Barre restaurant, portion sizes and prices will be driven by the demand of the club’s members.
“They are two totally separate operations, but the philosophy and formula will be the same,” he said, citing the Cornerstone’s “good-food-good-service” mantra.
“Our goal and intention is to up the level of service, up the quality and presentation of the food, and try to turn the (country club) restaurant into an income center,” he said.
According to McSheffrey, that effort will start for real on May 1, when the restaurant featuring a revamped menu will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, not to mention special events, like the Mother’s Day brunch that is being planned and wedding receptions that are already being booked.
In the meantime, McSheffrey, “lighter fare” will be served to members of the club, which officially opened its golf course for the season on Thursday.
McSheffrey, who recruited his kid-sister, Kristine, a successful Boston chef in her own right, to return to Barre and run the kitchen at the country club, is optimistic it can become a dining attraction, while accommodating weddings and other large functions, including more than 30 that have already been booked.
“We want to come in and make what’s here better,” McSheffrey said.
Golf pro Roger King said the club’s members are on board.
“We’re excited to see the next step in our food and beverage operation,” he said, describing the country club’s arrangement with the Cornerstone as “a win-win situation.”
“They (the Cornerstone) make great food and provide great service and that’s what we strive for (here),” he said.
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