STYLE

As golf world descends on Glen Abbey, chef preps to feed elite competitors

07/22/2013 11:33 EDT | Updated 09/21/2013 05:12 EDT
OAKVILLE, Ont. - Jamie Hussey is in full swing getting ready to feed elite golfers competing at this week's RBC Canadian Open.

The executive chef at Glen Abbey Golf Club has been gearing up for his inaugural gig dishing up fare at the national golf championship.

"It's hugely exciting," Hussey said. "It's kind of a one-in-a-lifetime experience for me coming from hotels to the golf course world."

Competition starts Thursday and wraps up Sunday at the course west of Toronto, with practice and qualifying rounds taking place at the beginning of the week.

In a way, the 35-year-old is returning to his roots. He grew up in Oakville after his family moved there from his birthplace of Sheffield, England. He got his start as a chef in restaurants in nearby Guelph before spending almost five years in Kingston, Ont. Then it was back to Oakville to oversee the food service at the venerable golf course on July 4, 2012.

Getting ready to host the 104th edition of Canada's national open golf championship involves an inordinate amount of preparation and co-ordination, Hussey acknowledged on a recent day when the course was a hive of activity as work crews erected stands and groomed the grounds for the jewel in the country's golfing crown. And all the while, he has to cater weddings and arrange repasts for other events going on at the club, which continues to be open for member play in the leadup to the event.

"You start kind of with the idea of what you want to serve the golfer and then I have to work backwards so I can serve 470 to 500 people," said Hussey.

"It's looking at healthy options, it's looking at accessible options, something that's going to please a crowd but give them that kind of experience that you want to project here at Glen Abbey and at ClubLink," which owns the course.

The field so far includes Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, John Daly, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk. Defending champion Scott Piercy is also slated to play.

Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., will join a dozen other Canadians, including Graham DeLaet, David Hearn, Stephen Ames and Albin Choi already in the tournament's field, with the possibility of more joining as qualifying continues.

Hussey is featuring Canadian ingredients as much as possible. "We try to think about working locally, then Ontario, then Canada."

He's particularly excited about executing a coast-to-coast themed meal.

"So I'm doing product from Vancouver all the way out to Fredericton and we're going to bring it here and utilize Ontario products as well, all through the provinces and executing separate dishes from those areas so you kind of get a cross-Canada feel."

Menu items will include bison from Manitoba, which will be braised to make a ragout for pasta, High River, Alta., corn-fed beef, P.E.I. lobsters that will be featured in salads, ramps from Fredericton, Saskatoon berries and chinook salmon.

Hussey was planning healthy options for the golf athletes. "I'm looking at high protein, not heavily laden starches. They will need some carbohydrate to metabolize the protein," which will range from fish and chicken to beef and bison.

Smoothies and fresh fruit will be on the menu in the morning before play starts. Players will be able to have their eggs made to order at stations set up in the clubhouse. At lunch, couscous, orzo or quinoa salads will be the accompanying starch for some of the protein items.

Snacks will include whole fruit and nut blends and energy bars. "As a golfer as they're playing a long round they want to stop and eat something quickly that's not going to take up time if they're going to tee off on the next hole," he noted.

Weir became the first Canadian-born men's player to win a major and the first left-hander to win the Masters, taking the hardware in 2003 at the Augusta National. He is joining PGA Tour stars and up-and-coming Canadian golfers and sports celebrities at a Golf Canada Pro-Am to start the week.

"I'm very excited, very excited he's here," said Hussey of Weir.

"We do do a pretty cool event for him that's a whole bunch of marche stations and stuff, so it's diverse."

At cooking stations throughout the clubhouse, people will be able to partake of such dishes as paella, steak Diane, seared tuna, ratatouille, citrus rainbow trout and bananas foster.

Hussey's domain is the clubhouse where players and corporate guests will dine while spectators watching the action throughout the grounds will be able to access food provided by other catering companies.

Stocking the larder is a major effort for him and his staff of 35.

"I take a look at what the average athlete or the average person consumes, so whether it's six ounces of protein, two ounces of veg, three ounces of starch. We literally extrapolate that out to base product and then I will work with my purveyors" to supply the product.

Hussey was devising meals and programs to appeal to an eclectic international crowd.

"Feeding the masses I can't have a lot of obscure ingredients that people are going to go 'Ewww.' We want them to go" 'Hey, I remember this.'"

MORE:cpStyle