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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Viking Classic

September 24, 2007

Viking Classic

Growing up in Hattiesburg, Miss. in the late 1960s and early 1970s I always looked forward to the Magnolia Classic.

The Magnolia Classic was a Professional Golf Association sanctioned event that was held in Hattiesburg every April opposite The Masters tournament in Augusta. Tom Watson and Nick Faldo played here but never won. Payne Stewart and Craig Stadler each won the tournament. Dwight Nevil won it twice.

Wednesday’s Magnolia Classic Pro-Am was an official school holiday in Hattiesburg. My friends and I worked as caddies to earn extra money. In its early days, the tournament attracted many celebrities. I watched Clint Eastwood try to hit a ball standing ankle deep in water on number 10. Robert Stack and Phil Harris played here. My friend Stan drove Jimmy Dean around with the task of keeping track of all of his jewelry.

Eastwood was only able to play a few holes. Female fans kept stealing his ball and eventually he called it quits.

I followed Glen Campbell around for a few holes and can remember being taken aback when he ducked into a Porta-Potty. At 10 years old I was amazed that celebrities actually used the restroom.

I remember in 1986— the last year I attended the Magnolia Classic— as the afternoon wound down and the day’s last groups were approaching the 18th green, someone busted out of the 19th Hole lounge yelling, “Jack Nicklaus just won the Masters! Jack Nicklaus just won the Masters!”

Eventually, the Magnolia Classic stopped booking high profile Pro-Am celebrities and the tournament moved to Jackson. It was sponsored by a bank and an insurance company. For me, it never held the appeal that those early days provided. These days I’m a cook, not a golfer.

In my absence the tournament has grown into a full-fledged, big-purse PGA event and is truly a feather in Mississippi’s cap. And to top it off, this year the Viking Range Corporation has stepped up to the plate as the title sponsor. And who said that food and golf were like chalk and cheese?

Mississippi Delta wunderkind Fred Carl, founder and CEO of the Viking Range Corporation has done it again. Viking is one of Mississippi’s premier industries and the one that I always brag about when dealing with people in New York and California. The marriage of these two great examples of what Mississippi has to offer makes perfect sense.

The tournament will feature plenty of golfing star power. John Daly, Steve Elkington, Jim Gallagher, Jr., and Davis Love III will be there. But leave it to Viking to bring out the culinary stars.

Viking has pitched a culinary tent on the Annandale grounds where chefs from all over the country will be performing demos for those who want to take a break from the action on the course (or for those who came to the event with a golf fanatic, but would rather eat).

Paula Deen’s sons, the Deen Brothers, will be performing a cooking demo, as will Mississippi’s own, Cat Cora, Food Network Iron Chef, and the Executive Chef at Bon Appetit’ magazine. A full list of the week’s chef demos can be found at .

Watercolor artist, Wyatt Waters and I will be hosting a dual demonstration at 1 p.m. on Sunday, the final day of the tournament. I’ll be preparing recipes from our soon-to-be-released cookbook, Southern Seasons, while Wyatt simultaneously paints a watercolor still life. I am not sure if we’ll have to whisper instructions to those in attendance, but I can’t wait to find out.

Caramel Brownies


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, heated

In a small, heavy duty saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring very often. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches a deep caramel color, about 10 minutes. As soon as this deep color is achieved, use a wire whisk and quickly stir in the warm cream. Return the caramel to a medium heat, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Remove keep warm while preparing the brownie batter.

Brownie Mix

6 ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
1 cup Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa
1 tsp Double Acting Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
4 large Eggs
2 1/2 cups Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Butter a 9×12 inch baking dish

In a small heavy saucepot, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.

Using the whip attachment of an electric mixer beat the eggs on medium speed. While still beating, add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and pale. Add in the chocolate mixture and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and blend
well using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Drizzle the caramel in rows lengthwise on top of the batter. Drag a pairing knife back and forth through the caramel lines. Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until the brownie pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan. Let brownies cool completely before cutting.

16 brownies

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