Medinah chef eager to feed golf's elite during Ryder Cup week
For more than a year, Bryan Panico has been thinking about the Ryder Cup. The prestigious golf tournament has been on his mind and even in his dreams. And he doesn't even like to play golf.
As executive chef for Medinah Country Club, Panico has spent months preparing for the PGA event that's coming to his club this week. He's been writing menus, developing dishes, planning buffet layouts and plotting his purchasing strategy so he and his crew can feed an estimated 18,000 people over the course of the tournament.
"Between the Ryder Cup and my 8-week-old daughter (Audrey), one of them keeps me up at night," Panico said.
Panico, 35, a graduate of Fenton High School in Bensenville, has worked at Medinah Country Club since 2003. He joined the kitchen crew as sous chef and has been the club's executive chef for five years.
"The biggest challenge has been the organization of it all," he said. "We need the right amount of serving space, have to have places to store all the food ... that's been the hard part. The easiest part is for me to cook."
Some of the dishes on the menu are clubhouse favorites, like the potato-crusted tilapia and barbecue-glazed salmon. He developed other recipes, like his pastry-wrapped pork and apple sausage, to tempt the tournament's European team.
"The menus reflect the Ryder Cup's teams' tastes and desires," he said. "The European team has the more unique food."
His staff ordered snacks for the teams and will be fulfilling specific requests for Rice Chex, Swedish fish and chocolate-covered pretzels.
Two 40-foot refrigerated trucks have been brought in to hold all the ingredients, including some 750 pounds of bacon, 400 pounds of eggs, nearly a ton of deli meats, 1,500 pounds of lettuce and 30 cases each of apples, bananas and oranges. Several rooms at the club house have been converted into hospitality centers where 10 different buffets will be set up for simultaneous serving of breakfast, lunch and snacks. These buffets are for the U.S. and European teams and their families, PGA officials and guests and high-end corporate sponsors. (Spectators will have access to concessions provided by Levy Restaurants.)
To make it all happen, Panico brought on 15 additional chefs and cooks to complement his staff of 19, plus another 65 or so servers, buffet captains and bartenders to work the six-day event, which begins today with practice rounds and a celebrity scramble.
"We're really anxious to get started," Panico said. "We've been waiting for this for so long, now it's time to get cooking and do what we do best."
Ryder fans won't go hungrySorry, Average Ryder Cup Fan. The barbecue-glazed salmon and tea sandwiches are reserved for the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. But don't worry, you won't go hungry,
Levy Restaurants has been tapped by the PGA to provide concessions at Medinah Country Club during the six-day tournament this week. The Chicago-based company is no stranger to feeding hungry sports fans: it provides concessions locally for Arlington Park and Wrigley Field as well as at sporting venues throughout the country.
Spectators can visit any one of 16 concession stands to order items like shepherd's pie, fish and chips, Italian beef sandwiches and deep dish pizza. The one-third-pound Bogey Burger will set you back $8.50. Add a Stella Artois for $6, or sip a Match Play Tee-Time, the official drink of the Ryder Cup featuring Ketel One Citroen, iced tea and lemonade.
In addition, award-winning chef Tony Mantuano, of Spiaggia, will bring a taste of his latest neighborhood bar and pizzeria, Bar Toma, to the Ryder Cup. Cooks will use a wood-burning stove to make his signature pizzas topped with fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil or artisan pepperoni, tomato, mozzarella and smoked garlic.
Don't be surprised if you see Tiger or Rory trying to score one of those pizzas on the 19th hole.
-- Deborah Pankey