BERNARDSTON, Mass. -- Zeke’s Smokehouse Grill has re-opened on the picturesque grounds of Crumpin-Fox Golf Club, ushering in a new chapter in the distinguished history of the well-manicured, scenic course. The now year-round restaurant has undergone a change of name and has a new look and taste.
Zeke’s is located at the club on Parmenter Road in Bernardston. The eatery was formerly known as The 19th Hole and served as a fine amenity for the club since its founding back in 1977, offering typical American pub fare. But now the renamed, renovated restaurant is offering hungry diners the delicious flavors of the Bayou with exhilarating, mouth-watering Cajun dishes. And the pizzazz of mouth-watering barbecue.
Jim Dion, the returning head chef, has five years of experience at Crumpin-Fox and brings to his work an incredible array of culinary ability.
Tim Van Epps is the president of Sandri Energy; Fox Golf’s parent company is the Sandri Companies.
"Tim wanted a barbecue concept for the new restaurant," said Dion. "I came up with the idea of barbecue and Cajun. Above all, Tim wanted a type of fare that would be very appealing to all of our customers.
"Traditional Cajun cooking is based on a blend of onion, pepper and celery, which is known in the South as the ‘trinity.’ Delicious cuts of meat and a wide variety of spices complete the basic design. We’re proud that we use all cast-iron
Heather Scobel, the restaurant’s dynamic manager, agreed.
"Tim Van Epps saw the potential for a remarkable place where Franklin County folks could come to dine and that would nicely accommodate our golfers. Tim saw the possibilities afforded by our talented head chef, Jim, the beautiful setting, and our fantastic beverage program that affords customers local draft beer from Berkshire Brewing Company, among other brands, excellent mixed drinks, and an outstanding selection of domestic and imported wines. Those three factors were only three of many ingredients, you could say, in the decision to create Zeke’s Smokehouse Grill."
Of those many other factors, one that stands out is Zeke’s use of solely wild Louisiana white Gulf shrimp captured in the nation’s waters. In addition, the Bernardston eatery’s utilizes only U.S. farm-raised catfish. Delicious Gumbo, the well-known thick stew, and Jambalaya, the famous Bayou rice dish, are other outstanding offerings.
Also, Zeke’s BBQ features delicious Beef Brisket (available only on Friday nights) with a generous portion of slow smoked brisket served with Texas Mop sauce and house sauce on the side. And keep in mind the Pulled Pork with an abundant portion of pulled smoked shoulder with sauce on the side.
Another reason why Zeke’s is enjoying solid customer response is the heavy emphasis on top food providers, according to Scobel.
"We use a lot of high-quality products," Scobel said. "Tim shops at Foster’s, a great source of local produce. And he goes to Kulick’s Market in Winchester, N.H., which grinds all of our meat for burgers and hand-out steaks."
"And our purveyors are local," added Chef Dion. "The companies may be national, such as Sysco and Agar, but the sales representatives are all local people. That’s such a big thing for us. We want to reach out to our community all we can."
Tim Van Epps directs the Big Brother/Big Sister Golf Tournament yearly at Crumpin-Fox. All proceeds go to the Franklin County chapter of that organization. Crumpin-Fox began as a nine-hole playing facility in the late ‘70s. Bill Sandri purchased the club in 1989 and hired the late Roger Trent Jones, at that time one of America’s leading golf course architects, to convert the local links into an 18-hole layout.
Manager Scobel feels the newly themed restaurant will further enhance the club’s reputation "where friendly, nice people congregate." She added, "My staff really cares about its customers. They love working here because it’s truly like being in a family. The employees feel they’re contributing to something really special. And Jim has set up a wonderful learning environment for cooking and kitchen techniques."
Both Scobel and Dion are graduates of Westfield State College. Scobel earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2004. She began working at Crumpin-Fox in 2001 and worked her way through school. Scobel made deliveries from the beverage cart on the course before moving up to bartending duties. Heather was hired right out of school as manager of The 19th Hole.
"I love the feel and the atmosphere of the new restaurant. And I really enjoy coordinating special events. Nothing is more fun for me than throwing a party, figuring out all those little details that make an event a success. We do a lot of private functions here: retirement parties, baby showers, wedding rehearsal dinners, and bachelor parties, which can be combined with golf outings."
Chef Dion graduated from WSC in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He had a lifetime goal of becoming a state policeman, but suffered shoulder and knee injuries while serving in the Army. Discharged as a first lieutenant, he spent his final five years in the service as a budget officer.
"I had read ‘The Making of a Chef,’" said Dion, "by Michael Ruhlman, and it seemed like it would be a rewarding and challenging field." So Dion enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and studied for two years before graduating in 2002. "It’s a lot like the military," he said. "It’s regimented and highly disciplined. You have to wear a chef’s uniform to school every day." Dion graduated first in his class of 100 students.
Dion spent three years as executive chef at Crumpin-Fox’s sister course, Fox Hopyard Golf Club at East Haddam, Conn. He also was the chef and back house manager at La Cantina Restaurant in San Diego, Calif.
Scobel likes the big deck adjacent to the restaurant where customers can relax, completely shaded from the sun. "Non-golfers really enjoy it here," said Heather. "I’m looking forward to the winter, too. We’ll be focusing on skiers, who I know will really be comfortable at our big fireplace on a cold winter night."
Zeke’s Smokehouse Grill is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more info, call 413-648-5356.