June 10, 2018

Comfort Food, Arnie’s Style, Just Got Even Better

New Executive Chef Matt Sohlo Shares His Vision for Arnie’s and Why Comfort Food is an Absolute Necessity to Golfing Better

There’s American cuisine, and then, there’s comfort food. The kind of food that feeds the soul and makes you feel right at home. We’re talking:

Southern fried chicken
Baked potato with butter and sour cream
Mac n’ Cheese
Sirloin steak
Tator Tot Hotdish
Chicken pot pie
Wild rice soup
Grass-fed, charcoal grilled burgers on a fresh bakery bun

To Matt Sohlo, the new executive chef for Arnie’s Restaurant at the Royal Golf Club, nothing goes better than comfort food and golf.

“Golfing is meant to be fun,” he says. “It’s meant to be shared with good friends. Savoring that precious time in the outdoors. That’s how Arnold Palmer would want it. And that’s why having good food that complements the moment is so important.”

Which is why Matt is intent on bringing those classic American dishes we all love to Arnie’s.

“Life is so complicated as it is,” he adds. “Golf is a form of escape. To be enjoyed simply. And I strongly believe that’s the way we should enjoy our food. Don’t over complicate things. Allow the ingredients to stand for themselves. Make food that feeds the soul.”

Matt hasn’t come to these realizations lately or lightly. He’s been cooking and playing golf since he was a teenager.

Matt’s journey to the Royal Golf Club began when he was 16 years old as a prep cook for a local steakhouse. After graduating from Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minnesota, in 1997, he decided to pursue a full-time career as a chef.

“What can I say, I just fell in love with cooking,” Matt says, “and I’ve been cooking ever since.”

Matt graduated from the Saint Paul College culinary school in 1999 with an associate degree in culinary arts and began working at San Pedro Café in Hudson, Wisconsin, where learned about Caribbean, Southern, and New Orleans styles of cooking.

“San Pedro brought a lot of different cuisines together,” Matt says. “Working there for 12 years really helped me to expand both my range of cooking and my palette.”

Later, Matt expanded his expertise in Southern cooking as a chef for the PGA Tour, traveling throughout the country, particularly the Deep South, with the pros and sampling authentic cuisine for three years.

“That’s where I found a true appreciation for Southern food,” he explains. “Collard greens, biscuits, pot pie, and chicken and dumplings are pure comfort foods. And I noticed it was what the pro golfers really appreciated after long days of practice and tournament play away from home.”

Now, Matt is bringing those classic Southern flavors that Arnold Palmer loved back to Arnie’s, where he intends to fuse them with Northern comfort food, such as Tater Tot Hot Dish and meatloaf.

“We want to take signature Southern and Midwestern dishes – Arnie’s Southern fried chicken or Tater Tot Hot Dish, for example – and give them a upscale feel,” Matt says. “But at the same time, I wouldn’t want the menu to be intimidating in any way.”

“I’ve found that the best dishes are simple and made with high-quality ingredients,” Matt explains. “American food was never meant to be complicated or confusing.”

Matt has several guiding philosophies when it comes to keeping the menu simple with the fine-dining experience Arnie’s is known for.

“We buy local wherever we can, and we try not to alter the ingredients too much. We want to let the flavors speak for themselves,” Matt says.

“We’re also keeping the menu approachable,” he adds. “We want our guests to feel confident and excited in trying something new, and not feel confused by what the dish actually is.”

Lastly, Matt is planning to keep the new menu short and sweet.

“Having fewer options on the menu allows us to really focus on the quality of each dish,” he says. “A shorter menu also gives us the freedom to adapt the dishes as certain ingredients come in and out of season and to offer specials that are in keeping with the seasons.”

Matt plans on changing the menu twice per year to make sure that the options incorporate fresh seasonal produce.

“We will also have a section in the menu during the summer months for lighter options,” Matt says. “We’ve been in touch with Annika Sörenstam, who helped us craft a set of fresh, light alternatives.”

“We realize that some guests may not want a rich, heavy meal on a hot day during the summer,” he explains.

The Royal Golf Club has taken Annika’s Corner on the menu one step further by dedicating the concessions stand (on the lower patio level) to her. “Annika’s will offer casual, yet high-quality alternatives to the sit-down atmosphere of Arnie’s Restaurant.

“We’re taking classic American fare and elevating each ingredient,” Matt says. “Each burger will be fresh-cooked with the option to add local cheese and cherry-smoked bacon.”

“We’re also planning on introducing a signature Arnold Palmer-brined chicken sandwich,” he adds. “The whole staff is really excited to start making these classic dishes our own.”

The changes that Matt intends to bring to Arnie’s are inspired by the change he sees to the old Tartan Park golf course.

“I played golf in high school and this was our home course,” Matt recalls. “But it’s changed so much since then.”

“At the end of the day, I approach my cooking like I approach my golf,” he says. “I’m always learning and trying new things.”