When Robert H. Dedman founded ClubCorp in 1957, he had a vision; to create private clubs where everyone is welcome, regardless of age, race, religion, or background. And he did just that.
Dedman died in 2002 but with more than 200 golf and country clubs, city clubs and stadium clubs nationwide, his legacy lives on in every ClubCorp from Maui to Massachusetts.
ClubCorp is the largest owner and operator of private clubs.
We talked with Sean DiCicco, ClubCorp’s Senior VP of Food and Beverage about the company, traveling the globe, and of course, food and wine.
Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Aliquippa, a small town outside of Pittsburg, PA and spent most of grade school and high school in Downingtown, just outside Philadelphia. My dad was a Chemical Engineer for Arco and my mother was a Registered Nurse.
Definitely not the hospitality industry. Was this a childhood dream or something you discovered later in life?
Pretty sure I wanted to be a fighter pilot early on but the summer of my junior year I knew I wanted to be a chef.
Ah... so you were a foodie as a kid? Not a mac 'n cheese, spaghetti o’s kind of guy?
Definitely. My Italian grandmother taught me how to make fresh pasta and amazing sauce. She was a huge influence on my career.
Love that. My nana also loved including me in the kitchen.
Was wine also part of your upbringing? Do you remember your first taste?
Pretty sure I was 7 or 8 sipping my grandfather’s version of cherry wine he made a barrel of every year.
Yum! As you got older, did you ever have one of those “aha” moments with wine?
Yes! For me it was the musty, barnyard notes in a great Bordeaux, I was hooked!
Guessing you studied Food & Wine after high school?
Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Play Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club, one of the most beautiful private golf courses in northern California.
Nice! Definitely a door opener for a career as a chef. Where did you go once you earned that very prestigious degree?
Tavern on the Green in NYC, which at the time was the highest grossing restaurant in the country.
Wow! That’s fantastic. What a perfect first job. I have such wonderful memories of that restaurant. I think everyone who worked there, dined there, walked past there… felt an intense sadness when they closed in 2009.
COVID-19 has had a very similar effect on the restaurant industry, even more devastating. What’s been your experience?
Very impactful, devastating to our industry. I’ve been very fortunate to work in the Golf industry which has been one of the few segments that is thriving. While our à la carte business has outpaced prior years, we continue to struggle with our Catering and Private Events business.
Even before COVID, it is a very tough business to succeed in.
Hard work isn’t always a guarantee that things will work out. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet and work for great people.
Let’s dig in a little more about your career now that we know your roots. What’s happened since Tavern on the Green?
Well, I’ve had a 30-year career in Restaurants, Casinos, Hotels, Catering, both property and corporate level, so I have pretty much covered the gambit of Food and Beverage.
As for your current job, how did you get to ClubCorp?
My previous boss from Caesar’s Entertainment left his position to join ClubCorp. He called me a few months after he started, and I quote “I need you”. I joined the company 2 months later.
How wonderful. I remember from our conversation at dinner in Aspen, you’ve definitely seen a lot of the world.
I have pretty much covered the globe, yes. My career has afforded me great trips to Italy, Shanghai, Hong Kong, France, Portugal, Brazil and New Zealand.
Anywhere you left your heart?
There will always be a spot in my heart for the Big Island of Hawaii, I opened the Four Season’s property Hualalai back in 1996. I also helped opened a Venetian casino in Macau, and two hotels for Caesars Entertainment in Dubai.
Definitely a fortunate life. Kind of jealous! But most of your career has been based in Las Vegas. What’s that been like?
The majority of my career has been spent in Las Vegas, my three daughters were born and raised there, I call it home. We have a great place at the Lakes, just southeast of Summerlin.
And if I remember correctly, that’s where you met your gorgeous wife.
I met Audrey at the Venetian Hotel, she was in Sales and Catering, I was the Executive Chef of the property. We both came to town in 1998. She moved from Brazil and I moved from Hawaii.
Canyon Gate Country Club just minutes away from the Vegas Strip, our Ted Robinson-designed course is the centerpiece of an unrivaled golf experience.
What a perfect story.
Mark and I met on the island where you left a little of your heart; the Big Island of Hawaii at Roy’s restaurant in Waikoloa. I was selling him wine.
I am pretty sure we were tasting chardonnay with their buttery miso fish; a great pairing. Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?
Nothing like a great White Burgundy and a fresh seafood tower!
Ha! That’s what we had on one of our first date’s. Love that pairing. Do you have a favorite cuisine?
I would have to go with Italian, love fresh pasta.
Can’t argue with that one. I actually cooked Lobster Pasta for dinner last night. How about wine. Do you have any favorite varietals?
Burgundy’s and Bordeaux’s are definitely at the front of the pack (red and whites), Barolo’s… and an occasional Super Tuscan or big Napa Cab.
You mentioned one of my darlings; White Burgundy.
Okay, so, when you are not working (i.e. tasting wine, cooking, overseeing your team, traveling the world) where might we find you?
I love hunting, fishing, running, biking…just like being outdoors! Love to fly fish in Montana, very relaxing.
Are you into anything crazy like Paragliding?
I wouldn’t call myself an adrenaline junky, but I do enjoy fast cars/motorcycles and the likes.
I’d have to say not Sky Diving: just can’t see jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
Right? I totally draw the line at Bungee jumping and Zip lining. If money was no object, where are you spending your next vacation?
I’d probably take a yacht trip through the Mediterranean for a few weeks, seeing the sights, eating great food and of course only drinking the best vintages from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne. And definitely spend some time in Greece.
I am totally coming with. (laughs). Thank you so much for spending some time with us.
It has been a lot of fun!