Whether it has been a Minnesota tater tot hot dish with ground buffalo or fried catfish and hush puppies, Tournament Players Club-Twin Cities executive chef Peter Metzger has been dishing out Minnesota cuisine with a twist, southern comfort foods and much more to professional golfers at the 3M Championship since 2001.
“These guys aren’t difficult to please and they appreciate what you do,” Metzger said.
The big difference between 3M Championship week, which wraps up this Sunday, Aug. 4, and the rest of the year is the large number of buffets for breakfast and lunch, but the kitchen staff of seven, including Metzger, love the challenge.
One day the golfers and other diners may be eating croissant french toast, while the next day they could have breakfast burritos or just choose cereal, fruit or toast any day. Fish and chips, smoked pork loin and sliced sirloin are a few lunch options on different days.
At dinner, Metzger and other cooks prepare several different entrées at once with choices such as smoked ham and sweet corn linguini garnished with crispy yams; broiled sea scallops with oriental spicy mayonnaise, argula oil and pea pods on mango jasmine rice with red horseradish ginger; old dutch sea salt potato crusted walleye with wild rice, sweet corn, asparagus and edamame pilaf; and a 16-ounce prime T-bone steak.
The TPC of Blaine has the same number of cooks whether it is the 3M Championship, a wedding reception or a banquet. Metzger works with six other cooks. One has been with him for 11 years. Another two have nine years’ experience at the TPC-Twin Cities. His assistant chef Tait Galstad has been there four years.
“My guys have had a lot of tournament experience,” Metzger said. “I don’t want to say it’s not a difficult week, but it’s more fun that our normal stuff.”
Every once in a while, the professional golfers will make requests, but nothing too difficult for Metzger’s team to manage. The biggest menu change over the years has been fewer fried foods and more lean meats.
The first year the 3M Championship moved from Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids to the TPC-Twin Cities in 2001, Metzger heard that Chi-Chi Rodriguez prefers lamb, buffalo and fresh fish. Ground buffalo substitutes ground beef in the tater tot hot dish offered to players this year and roasted rack of lamb is one option on the dinner menu.
Last year’s champion Bernhard Langer requested wiener schnitzel, a popular dish in his German home. A lot of players from the southern U.S. love fruit cobblers and other southern style food. One requested fried catfish and hush puppies, Metzger said.
Most personal requests are very simple such as asking for no salt, or putting a sauce on the side.
“We do get some special requests, but they’re not any different than what you’d get at a free-standing restaurant,” Metzger said.
One personal request that Metzger has been happy to meet over the last 10 years has been cooking breakfast at Arnold Palmer’s home. Palmer is an early riser, so Metzger often gets to visit with him before anyone else in the house wakes up.
“He’s a down to earth guy, so nice,” Metzger said. “The human side comes out versus the celebrity side.”
A lot of the cooks golf and are big fans of the players they are feeding. During the first 3M Championship tournament Galstad worked at four years ago, he remembers glancing up while prepping a dish and seeing Metzger visiting with Palmer.
Galstad nonchalantly kept his head down and continued to work even although he was thrilled to be so close to a golfing legend who designed the TPC-Twin Cities course.
Metzger himself does not golf. “I don’t golf,” he said. “I cook for golfers.”
The road to executive chef
Becoming a good cook was a necessity for Metzger in his childhood because his mother was so bad at it.
“My mother was the world’s worst cook and to this day she admits that,” he said. “I came from a family of 10 and being the second oldest I had to learn how to cook early.”
His grandmother, who brought dishes during the holidays they did not get the rest of the year, was his biggest influence. She is of Scottish descent and Metzger’s father through genealogy research found another family member who is a professional cook in Scotland.
“He was so thrilled to find there was somebody across the pond that was in the business that years later when he passed away, his wife sent me half of his cookbooks,” Metzger said.
The word Metzger translates to “butcher” in German, so Metzger’s life path seemed to be leading him to a career in cooking.
Metzger has mostly taught himself since he began working in kitchens at the age of 16 over 35 years ago. The best educational opportunity was learning from French-born Roux brothers Albert and Michel in London in 1983. A Roux brothers’ protege is Gordon Ramsay, a British chef, who is the star of the reality television show “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Prior to becoming the executive chef at the TPC-Twin Cities when it opened in 2000, Metzger’s other head chef experiences in Minnesota included the Wayzata Country Club and Radisson Plaza hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and Forepaugh’s restaurant in St. Paul.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org