Im a bogey chef, she said, laughing. Actually, Lake Nonas executive chef, Gary Hoffman, has a totally opposite viewpoint. Shes a natural, he says.
The whole idea of cooking in the major leagues has been gnawing at Sorenstam for some time, she says. During this off-season, she finally decided to do something about it. Annika is working three days a week in eight-hour shifts in the Lake Nona kitchen near her Orlando home. Gone for the moment is the golfer who won 13 times around the globe last year. She is replaced by a woman who is serious about this new challenge ' being a chef for a big-city country club.
So far, so good, she says as she gets down to business over the stove. Gary is teaching me everything. I get to do some grilling. I get to do some preparation like cutting, slicing ' you name it!
Annika the Chef has been a creation of Sorenstams imagination for a long time, actually. She may be a professional golfer, but deep inside, she is very creative in the kitchen. I cook at home a lot, she reported. But then I thought, I can come here and they can teach me something.
Sorenstam busied herself with the art of grilling some choice cuts of meat, simultaneously cooking vegetables and expertly flipping them over in the pan without having to use a fork.
Its tough work, she said. Long, hectic hours and its tough when orders come in. They never order whats on the menu. Youve got to juggle all the different orders ' with onion, no onion, no rice, et cetera.
But ' its fun!
Annika is learning the art from the ground up. On the course she may be a superstar, but in here, she is just a novice. But this is a team, she says as she points to the people surrounding her. You are only as good as the other chefs and wait-staff make you.
Its teamwork ' especially at night, she says. Then I would do, maybe just a vegetable, and the other guys would do other things. There was a wedding the other day with over a hundred people. You stay very, very busy.
Hoffman, though, says Sorenstam is doing just fine. I know she has learned a lot, he says. Its just a matter of doing it over and over and over again, thats what it takes. Unfortunately, she doesnt have that time ' shes to play golf.
Golf, incidentally, seems so far away at the moment, though it is just out the door and up the walkway. This seems like a place totally removed from the pressures of tournament life. Actually, this is why she enjoys the anonymous life of a budding chef.
Im not thinking about my swing, Im not thinking about next years goals, says Sorenstam. This is really one of the best parts, thats why Im doing it now. I need a break. Even though I love what I do, I am totally into this.
She makes almost $3 million a year in purse money playing the LPGA. But she gladly perspires and cooks, all for the love of a hobby. And it doesnt matter that this job doesnt pay nearly as much as that other job.
All my friends ask me how much I am making, says Annika with a sly grin. I tell them I havent negotiated that part yet.