LUMBERTON — Last week Lester Locklear was a Master chef.
He and his team of about 14 chefs grilled, baked, fried, and sauteed mouthwatering culinary creations in Augusta, Ga., during The Masters, one of the golf’s major events that brings together top players from around the world.
The golfers weren’t the only ones feeling the heat.
“We had a great time — stressful but fulfilling,” Locklear said.
Locklear, the program director and an instructor with the Robeson Community College Culinary Arts program, isn’t a stranger to The Masters. He has been invited to cook for large corporations that take clients to the event.
In 2014, he and Linsie Locklear, his executive sous chef and fellow culinary instructor at RCC, filled in for PrimeSport after they were down a chef. PrimeSport, a global Sports Travel and Event Management company, has hired Locklear and his catering company, New South Catering, every year since.
Locklear started working in restaurants such as Sheff’s Seafood, a landmark restaurant in Pembroke, while a student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke just to make extra money. He ended up working at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia and the Kiawah Island Resort near Charleston, S.C., which are both five-star resorts. He also studied wine at Sommelier school.
“I sort of fell in love with it,” Locklear said about cooking and wine.
He has been teaching at RCC for eight years.
“They asked me to teach a semester after I got back from Europe and I wasn’t working anywhere so I started teaching, and I’ve been here ever since,” Locklear said.
Some of his former students joined his team at The Masters.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to come and see the real world industry — the food industry,” Linsie Locklear said.
Cooking at high-profile events also gives the team a chance to learn new techniques and trends in cooking.
“This gives us the opportunity to be around some awesome chefs and learn stuff as well,” Lester said.
“It’s still nerve wracking, but at the same time there’s so much excitement that goes along with it,” Linsie said. “That kind’ve overshadows the nerves of it ‘cause you still want to serve people. You want to make them happy.”
The days are spent prepping the food, and organizing what is needed to prepare the food.
“That’s the difference between a good chef and just a cook, being able to organize a kitchen or being able to run and organize a restaurant,” Lester said.
His responsibilities included hiring chefs, recipe development and obtaining the food.
“We’ll prep all day at one central location, and we will distribute everything that each chef needs,” Linsie said. “We have to adapt.”
The crew could have as many as seven houses a night, and cooked for groups that ranged from four to 12 people.
Lester and his team spent about a year working on The Masters menu.
The menu included items with fun titles named after golf holes, such as Red Bud, Azalea and Firethorn, and former winners of the event, the Tiger Woods and the Danny Willett.
“We sit down and do a lot of recipe testing, and we put together flavor profiles,” Lester said.
Clients chose the menu they prefer in advance.
One of the more popular was the “Steakhouse Surf and Turf,” which includes a Southern style shrimp cocktail; iceberg lettuce with applewood smoked bacon; buttermilk bleu cheese dressing and balsamic reduction drizzle; grilled rib-eye, New York strip; jumbo garlic sautéed shrimp; sautéed green beans with roasted red peppers and citrus butter; Yukon gold roasted garlic whipped potatoes; and dessert du jour.
Another favorite is the “Carolina Back Yard BBQ.” The menu includes an assorted Southern platter of pimento cheese, deviled eggs, pickled okra, house made crackers; a mixed green salad; Carolina mustard glazed grilled chicken; barbecue slow roasted baby back ribs; smoked pulled pork shoulder; traditional Carolina cole slaw; braised green beans with smoked ham; roasted red potatoes; jalapeno corn bread and sweet honey yeast rolls; and dessert du jour.
“We try to make it as over-the-top without going too pretentious,” Lester said. “Some clients remember what they ate the previous year so they request the same chefs and request the same meals.”
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 910-416-5865.