A Chef’s Table with James Patterson of Sedgefield Country Club
Kristi Maier |@triadfoodies
Our May Chef’s Table was a rare treat.
The setting was beautiful. At the one and only Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro. We had the English Tudor style country club’s main dining room to ourselves, overlooking the 18th green of the famed Donald Ross course that is home to the Wyndham Golf Championship. Sure it was pouring down rain for the 1000th day in a row it seems, but that didn’t dampen our appetites a bit as 34 guests were there to celebrate the extraordinary culinary talents of Chef James Patterson and his team.
Patterson, or “JP” to his friends and family, has been the Executive Chef of SCC since 2014. He’s the husband to Taccoa and father to nine-year-old Harriett and he’s enjoying making his culinary mark in the Triad.
Growing up in Wilmington, Patterson says culinary arts were always of great interest to him. He started out working as a dishwasher and worked his way up to the kitchen. He’s not formally trained, rather learned everything he knows from chefs in Wilmington, and marquee names like Craig Deihl in Charleston as well as Ashley Christiansen in Raleigh and the pastry chef Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary. Patterson says he took a little time away from the field and sold beer for Red Oak Brewery but decided to enter the kitchen once again. “Back in 2005, I joined forces with McConnell Golf and here we are 12 years later, still with McConnell.” Patterson started at Raleigh Country Club as a sous chef, then took the Executive Position at Cardinal Country Club in Greensboro. He moved again to Clinton, South Carolina for McConnell and three years ago, assumed the Executive Chef position at Sedgefield.
Many would assume that the life of a country club chef might be a little more low-key. But that’s not always the case. “Leaving the fine dining and restaurant industry was a difficult decision for me. But as McConnell Golf has grown, I’ve been witness to the power of a restaurant in a country club. It’s alike in many ways, but we typically work six days a week and we work breakfast, lunch and dinner, whatever takes. The expectations at a place like Sedgefield are very high and we try to meet them.”
Patterson has become known locally for his passion for utilizing local ingredients and thinking outside of the box, especially when it comes to country club dining. “From the outside looking in, a person’s perception of what it’s like to eat at a country club comes from the occasional wedding reception or some kind of celebration. And you typically get banquet fare like chicken or salmon and vegetables. And we do that to an extent here at Sedgefield because we have to do what the client wants,” Patterson says. “Sometimes they allow me to go outside of that and here, I’m pushing as a corporate chef with McConnell, and working with other chefs with the company, that a country club chef could be recognized for a James Beard Award.”
Sedgefield has a typical a la carte menu for breakfast lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Sunday, but Patterson says the weekend specials at SCC are when the team in the kitchen really has a chance to shine. “I talk to farmers throughout the week and months in advance for what we’d like to work with, to stay on top on what’s new and trending. We’re pushing each other to stay ahead of the game. We want our members to choose to dine with us and spend their money here, rather than eat elsewhere.” Patterson says their wine dinners allow him to further explore his culinary creative side with proteins like deer and boar and escargot.
Patterson says he likes to take old Southern dishes and put a new twist on it. Our Chef’s Table was just the event for Patterson to “go there” and draw out his staff’s creativity as he lavished us with five courses including a dessert duo. Let’s take a look:
Goodnight Brothers Country Ham and Rosemary Arancini, Spiced Arugula Greens Salad with Red Eye Vinaigrette
The arancini with bits of country ham and cheesy rice all tucked into a beautiful rice fritter was a great start. You could taste everything you love about red eye gravy (coffee, ham, pepper) all over the dressed arugula.
JP’s Signature “UpTown DownSouth” Shrimp and Grits, Tasso Ham Gravy, Cajun Fried Grit Cake, Shaved Parmesan
Seriously, the absolute best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. The tasso ham gravy is just the right amount of spicy. As in, it’s quite spicy and you won’t mind it one bit because the flavor is all of that. If you are ever in the vicinity of a special event, you’re quite likely to experience this dish, as chef says he prepares it often in a variety of ways.
Red Wine Braised & Cheerwine Glazed Heritage Bred Pork Cheeks, Spiced Sweet Potato Puree, Slow Cooked Southern Greens
This was hearty, sweet and savory with a great spicy, gingery twist on sweet potatoes. The collards were perfect.
Country Style Steak, Blue Cheese Cornbread Mashed Potatoes, Fried Brussel Sprout Leaves
The steak was prime NY Strip, breaded and fried and topped with a pepper gravy. It was like upscale, southern diner food perfection. But, please go back and read blue cheese cornbread mashed potatoes. Patterson said at the dinner, “This was sous chef Isaac’s idea and I was like, ‘Isaac, what is this you are talking about,’ but we think it works with it perfectly.”
The only way to describe them is they are exactly as described. They were different and textured with sweet yellow cornbread and a bit cheesy. These should inspire you to maybe try making them at home.
Decadent Peanut Butter Pie with Oreo Crust and Malted Vanilla Bean Milkshake
They had me at malted vanilla bean, and the little shot of milkshake was so luscious and yummy. The peanut butter pie, co-created with the help of Tracy Lamothe, was perfectly peanut buttery and dark chocolate. Not too sweet and definitely rich and it just had to be brought home with us (both of them) because we couldn’t eat another bite.
Although we got to know Patterson a little bit better, the chef was quite quick to point out that it was his team that did most of the heavy lifting. And he introduced them to enthusiastic applause, Isaac Spencer, Executive Sous Chef, Yacouba Doumbia, Tracy Cottrell and Sebastian Colbert.
Don’t feel bad if you aren’t lucky enough to be a member of Sedgefield Country Club to enjoy Patterson’s cooking. You’re likely to find him collaborating across the Triad at special events and a competition or two. Patterson won the Greensboro series of last year’s final Competition Dining. And he’s since garnered the attention of the folks at Triad Local First, who’ve asked him to be Featured Executive Chef for Community Table 2018. He’ll also be on the 2017 team this year assisting this year’s featured chef, Jay Pierce. You’re also likely to enjoy his company at any of our Chef’s Tables, as he has been one of the most consistent attendees.
Our next Chef’s Table will be on Monday, June 26, at 7:30pm as we let the Mozzarella Fellas surprise us with multiple courses. Tickets are $27 and include multiple courses plus tax and gratuity. For information follow @triadfoodies on Facebook and you’ll find it listed under “Events.”