Does what you eat and where you eat it matter I ask Roger Chapman as we eat lunch at the Grand Mere Inn in Stevensville last week.
“I’m not normally superstitious,” Roger replies as he sips a glass of red wine.
When someone phrases a sentence like that, you know there’s a “but” coming up soon. And sure enough, there was.
Last May Roger participated in the 2012 Senior PGA Championship which took place at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in nearby Benton Harbor. Directed to the Grand Mere Inn by his hotel the night before the tournament started, Roger drove to the long time local favorite perched high above Grand Mere State Park and beyond that the waters of Lake Michigan. He read his book, drank one glass of red wine and ordered the broiled white fish topped with crab meat and a lemon beurre blanc sauce.
“We noticed him sitting there but we didn’t know who he was,” says Grand Mere chef Charlie Racine.
They would soon find out.
“When I shot a 68,” he says, “I thought, I’d better go back there.”
And so he did, returning to the Grand Mere Inn that evening. By then, everyone watching the championship on TV or read the Herald Palladium, the local newspaper, knew who Roger was after he took the lead in the PGA. Including the staff at the Grand Mere Inn.
“We didn’t want to bother him though,” says Charlie.
That night, Chapman sat at the same table and ordered the lamb. The next day he shot a 67.
On day three, after another good finish, Roger told a TV reporter about his meals the two previous nights and the resulting wins.
“I had a bit of fish and then some lamb last night,” he said in his British way. “So we shall see what's on the menu tonight, but I'm definitely going back there.”
Two more nights, the same table, two more meals – the blackened sword fish served with hollandaise on the third night and the filet on the final night. Chapman even turned down an offer to dine with David Frost and Bobby Clampett because he didn’t want to break the routine of solitary dining at a specific table at the Grand Mere Inn.
His only regret, he jokingly told the TV and print reporters as he accepted the large trophy and monetary award of $372,000 was that he didn’t get a free meal at Grand Mere despite all the publicity he garnered for them.
And so when he returned to southwest Michigan with PGA officials to plan for the 2014 Senior PGA Championship scheduled for The Golf Club at Harbor Shores and made plans to lunch at Grand Mere, owners Pete and Nancy Racine had a gift waiting for him - a lifetime certificate for free meals there.
“Now I’m going to tip 30%,” he announced to all of us. “And I’m going to bring all my friends.”
So what about where he eats and what he eats during a tournament?
“I stay away from too many steaks and red meat,” Roger said mentioning that he doesn’t typically eat desserts except for maybe a little ice cream. “I tend to eat pasta a launch time for a bit of fuel but not at night because I need to be able to sleep.”
Oh and he’ll be at Grand Mere next year for sure.
As for today’s meal, Charlie Racine recreated the four meals that Roger ate during the PGA as menu options. We all got to pick whether we wanted to eat food from days one, two, three or four. I chose the whitefish and when Roger’s food came, I saw that he had done the same. Game on. Day One.
Whitefish with Crab and Lemon Beurre Blanc
4-8 ounce filets of whitefish
3 ounces crabmeat
2 tablespoons chopped onion
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup Sauvignon Blanc
1 pound butter, quartered cut into thick slices
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 dash ground white pepper
Season white fish with paprika. Place crabmeat on top. Cook in a preheated 425° oven.
While the fish is in oven, cook onion, lemon juice, vinegar and wine in a small pan on medium high heat until almost completely reduced. Add lemon peel and whipping cream. Stir and then add squares of butter one to two squares at a time while stirring. Season with pepper.