Everything is “home” for new golf restaurateurs Atkins Abbie and Ryan
By Sean McDevitt
In varsity athletics, student-athletes who choose to attend their public school and compete are called “home”. It means something to “stay at home” and represent the university on the court, the field, the diamond, the field and the track. That same mindset made Ryan and Abbie Rogiers decide it was time to come home, put down some roots, and build a family-run restaurant in the town they grew up in, St. Joseph, Illinois. Their restaurant, The Wheelhouse, is farm-to-table, and that’s not a marketing slogan. Locally sourced ingredients are used to create their menu items, and the menu itself changes depending on the season.
In business for four and a half years, the couple have enjoyed immense success. This fall, the latest addition to their long list of culinary delights will be unveiled: Homegrown at the Atkins Golf Club at the University of Illinois. This new restaurant and catering business will be at the heart of the ongoing renovations to the University of Illinois Atkins Golf Club.
Homegrown’s story begins elsewhere, but at home.
“We will be married at this restaurant for a few years.”
Ryan and Abbie Rogiers weren’t in love in high school, but they did know each other in high school. In a town of just over 4,000 people, most kids got to know each other as they grew up, and Ryan and Abbie were no exception. Ryan said they were friends in high school, but reconnecting in 2010 through the magic of Facebook allowed the couple to begin a romance.
According to Ryan, it was Abby who suggested opening the restaurant. He was teaching culinary arts at Richland Community College when she got the idea, “I was teaching, and then she started thinking, ‘Oh, we should open a little restaurant in our town here and just use produce from there. local farm. And I was like, ‘Okay, but you don’t know what you’re getting into. We will be married at this restaurant for a few years. ‘”
The next step was to watch a documentary titled, Sustainable.
“It’s based on Marty Travis and his Farmer Group Down at the Farm,” Rogiers said. “It’s a group of about seventy small local farms all around this area. And Abbie looked for him, and we started working with him using as much local food as possible.”
As the restaurant grew, word of mouth increased. One of their patrons included the athletic director of the University of Illinois Josh whitman.
Rogiers said: “Last year Josh started going in and eating and liked the way we were preparing food and everything. So he told us when they were doing the RFI that we should do a presentation. did it, and here we are. “
As the primary contact, the couple meet with the Assistant Sporting Director of Golf Operations Jackie Szymoniak, who oversaw the project. Renovations are well underway for the scheduled opening in October, although the clubhouse still looks like a construction zone.
“We don’t have a specific date yet, because all magical things have to happen,” Rogiers said.
One of the magical things on the horizon includes a farm-to-table addition that will set Homegrown apart from other restaurants.
“I ran big companies in Chicago, restaurant business and all that, but we wanted to focus on local agricultural products,” Rogiers said. “So there are about four acres at the back of this property, which we will turn into fine gardens and can be real farm-to-table. So everything will be grown here. We can drive to the other side of the course, and add everything for the restaurant. We’ll start small with one acre and then grow it over the next two years. “
“… Laid back, great food, great atmosphere, happy place to be ..”
Working with the University was a dream come true for the couple. Ryan and Abbie were both big fans of Illinois, with St. Joseph only fifteen minutes from the Illinois campus.
“I believe Abbie still has a pair of shoes that she signed to the Flying Illini team from 1989,” Rogiers said. “We’ve been fans our entire lives. Abbie actually graduated from college. Her second oldest son, Ollie, also recently graduated.”
At The Wheelhouse, at least three to four menu items change once a month, depending on the seasonality of local farms and available produce. It will be the same at Homegrown. There will be a solid base menu, but throughout the year the menu and specials will change depending on the season and whatever is growing well at that time.
Once the restaurant opens, Ryan has a solid vision for what Homegrown at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Golf Club will offer with food and atmosphere.
Rogiers said, “Like my wife says, I make comfort food with a twist. So comfort food with just a little twist, but that comfortable feeling of stepping out of the golf course, sitting down and having a beer and a burger. And on the same menu, maybe you have a couple dating in the same restaurant, same setting. And they can have a great bottle of wine and some great main courses and appetizers and things. So, just kind of laid back, great food, great atmosphere, happy place. “