12th in a series—The path to culinary greatness sometimes takes you home
By Elizabeth Granger
PLYMOUTH – When Jack Godwin was growing up in Walkerton, Indiana, his mother owned an eight-lane bowling alley with a restaurant attached. One Saturday the cook didn’t show.
Godwin, all of nine-years-old at the time and washing dishes for his mom, figured he could fill in for the missing cook. After all, he’d been watching the process for quite some time and was sure he knew what to do. “So I moved a milk crate over to the pizza oven and I got to work,” he says.
Fast forward some 30 years. After a college try and a decade in the Marines and culinary jobs that took him to Washington and Nevada and New York and Pennsylvania, he’s returned to his hometown. But instead of pizzas at the bowling alley, this executive chef is putting out prized meals at Swan Lake Resort in nearby Plymouth, where there are two restaurants – the main Dickies Restaurant and the more casual Putter’s Bar & Grille with sports playing on large TVs, a billiards table and beer on tap. Both showcase views of the golf course.
He credits a job at the restaurant Serafina in Seattle for really teaching him what he needed to know. “I learned almost everything there,” he says. “It’s still one of my favorite restaurants.”
In Plymouth, he focuses on the freshness of ingredients as he works toward a true farm-to-table concept with items made from scratch. Since coming to Swan Lake, he’s revamped the menu but saved favorites. He’s big on running specials.
“We want you to have a good time,” Godwin says. “We want you to have fun.”
And he adds: “It’s not only about the food; it’s always about the food.”
Chefs like stress, he says. “We like the angst, we like the heat, we like the burns, we like the cuts – all of it. We get addicted to that stress.”
He particularly likes the teaching he can do in the kitchen; passing on knowledge is important to him.
And he likes the opportunity to learn from his staff. “If you’re paying attention, you can learn something new every day,” he says.
He’s quick to praise others in the kitchen. “You can’t get to where you are all by yourself,” he says. “There’s a whole team back there that get no credit, that works long hours in the heat…. You have to give credit to everybody.”
Godwin says he doesn’t believe in signature dishes because it pigeon-holes a chef into one thing. He’d rather feel free to explore culinary ideas and create something different. But there are favorites that remain on the menu. Dickies is known for steaks – “We hand cut all our steaks” – as well as barbecue.
Also, onion rings. “Of all things” Godwin says. “My fry guy curses me every day for tying up a fryer solely for this.”
The restaurant has a pizza station, for East Coast pizzas. And, at Putter’s, there’s the pork tenderloin sandwich. “You have to do one of these if you’re in Indiana,” Godwin says.
He says he’s glad he’s back, glad to be able to catch up with so many people he went to school with. “You can come home again,” he says. “And I’m glad I did.”
Swan Lake Resort
Putter’s Bar & Grille
5203 Plymouth Laporte Trail
Plymouth, IN 46563