Every year since 2008, Chef Rodney Freidank writes his prep lists, packs his knives, and drives to Augusta, Georgia, in early April for the Masters. He’s not going to watch the renowned golf tournament; he’s going to work. An avid golf fan whose multitude of duties as corporate chef for Table 301 leaves him little time to swing his own clubs, Freidank gets his annual pro-golf fix cooking for corporate bigwigs and golfers at the ESPN House.
1 / How did you get involved in cooking at the Masters? >>
RF It was about being in the right place at the right time and having the right attitude. In 2008, an ESPN crew came to Greenville to do the Bassmaster shing tournament. While the shermen were out on the lake, their loved ones attended scheduled activities, one of which was a cooking class with me. When we got to the day of the event, only four people had signed up. I was bummed, but decided to make the best of it. We made a three-course lunch and had a great time. Three weeks later, I got a call from Lynn Kadri from ESPN, who had been at my class. She asked if I would be interested in cooking for ESPN at the Masters. For me, the Masters is the Holy Grail of golf, so, of course, I jumped at the chance. We went to Augusta, learned a lot, had fun, and got invited back the next year and the next. This will be our eighth year at the Masters.
2 / How do you approach this daunting task? >>
RF My job is to be highly stressed but to never seem like I’m stressed at all.
3 / What is your most memorable experience at the Masters? >>
RF It’s got to be that first year. We made meatloaf Sunday night to represent Soby’s and do comfort food the last night when the guests were tired. After dinner, this guy walks into the kitchen and gives me a big hug and tells me how good the meatloaf was. Turns out he was the CEO of Ford Motor Company. I couldn’t believe that this guy, who flies all over the world and can eat anything he wants, was hugging me over meatloaf!
4 / Is there a theme for the menu you plan for Augusta? >>
RF After all these years, I now have a way I do it. Monday night of the Masters is always the NCAA Basketball Championships, so we do something light like pizza or tacos made from scratch. We also do a steak night and a seafood night. And one night we do a Champions Dinner. Every year, the champion from the previous year gets to choose a menu to share with all the previous champions. Four years ago, I had the idea to do a Champions Dinner at the ESPN House. That was the year that Charl Schwartzel from South Africa was the champion, so I cooked South African dishes. ESPN loved this idea so much that now it’s become part of the theme each year. This year’s champion is Jordan Spieth from Texas, so that’s an easy one—Texas barbecue and beef, of course.
5/ Do you get to see any of the tournament? >>
RF For the past four years, I’ve gotten to go to the Masters on Sunday. I’m not out there long because I have a lot of work to do, but I get giddy just stepping out on the course.
6 / What keeps you going back every year? >>
RF The relationships that I’ve built. And there’s always the hope that someone will nd a way for me to play Augusta National!