It will be a homecoming of sorts for Sarah Master in Pengilly, Minn., when she turns in her Barbette chef’s jacket for one that says Mr. Roberts Resort, as she will at the end of the month.
That’s when she will join business partner Dan Beckwith, now financial controller of the Bryant-Lake Co., as co-owners of the year-round resort in her hometown. Her mother still lives in Pengilly, and Master already has her fans: the neighbors — all 260 of them — who watched her on TV last year as a semifinalist on the ABC cooking show “The Taste,” with chef Marcus Samuelsson as her team captain and mentor.
Expect some changes at the only restaurant in town. “I really want to showcase Midwestern food in a modern style,” she said in an interview.
Her favorite experiment so far is a mashup of horseradish mac-and-cheese inside meatloaf. Then there’s venison stroganoff, beef hanger-steak goulash and buffalo-fried cauliflower, all of which are keepers, she noted. So are the plans for a Friday night fish fry and the effort to use the brick smokehouse on the property. Homemade sauerkraut and in-house corned beef will be part of the mix, too. Boaters on Swan Lake will be welcome to stop by for burgers and sandwiches, and the menu will expand at dinnertime, choices made easier by the resort’s two dining rooms and bar.
The new owners expect to feed hungry snowmobilers (the state trail runs through the property) and ice fishing stalwarts on Swan Lake in wintertime; cabins and RV sites are part of the property, which has 300 feet of shoreline.
Master fairly bubbles over with excitement. “I always knew I wanted to own my own restaurant,” she said. “But now it’s a whole resort.”
Mr. Roberts Resort season officially begins on June 1. Master is not quite sure about staffing yet. “I’m a little nervous. But it’s a great experience for young cooks to work with someone with experience.”
That expertise grew from culinary school and stints in kitchens in New Orleans and around the Twin Cities, most recently as executive chef at Barbette in Uptown Minneapolis.
The name of the resort comes from the former owners — friends of Master’s family — who’ve had the resort since the 1960s.
So where is Pengilly?
“That’s the million-dollar question these days,” Master said with a laugh, noting that the town doesn’t appear on many maps. But you’ll find Pengilly on the Iron Range, between Hibbing and Grand Rapids.