Nicholas Skaewski has been in the culinary industry for over eight years, and recently started his own venture of bringing gourmet dining right to the consumer’s home. With a stellar team, including Lead Sommelier and Mixologist of Carnaval Brazilian Grille Benjamin Schempp, Skajewski offers educational dinners, catered events, and private dinners. 605 caught up with the chef to see what dishes he loves, and also what he enjoys outside of the kitchen.
MY PASSION FOR COOKING STARTED… when I was very young. As a young teenager, when I got to spend time with my maternal grandmother, she would teach me how to cook. Her technique was typically rudimentary, though sometimes daringly bold, but always extremely inspirational. She taught me how to truly use butter and how flavor held no boundaries. To this day I have wonderful memories of her making last-minute adjustments to dishes, even after they were plated.
WHY I STARTED [PROFESSIONALLY COOKING] IS BECAUSE… I needed a job! As a young teenager, I had already fallen in love with the culinary arts, but wasn’t involved professionally. Thanks to my mother and father saying, “Go get a job, and don’t come back until you have one,” I got off the couch and went searching. I walked into the first restaurant I saw that had a “now hiring” sign posted, got hired, and the next day started my first shift at a Chinese restaurant. That was, still to this day, the best culinary education I have ever received. Being limited by the language barrier, I learned by tasting, smelling, and watch-and-repeat cooking. It’s fun to remember those days and to recreate the meals in my cast iron skillet for my wife and daughters. Besides, everything tastes great as a rangoon.
MY COOKING STYLE IS… creative and modern, yet rooted in French classics. I definitely pay homage to the classics (where would we be without them?), but I enjoy pushing boundaries and finding flavor profiles/pairings that surprise my clients. A great example of this came recently during a private dinner where a client had a shellfish allergy. I used that restriction as a way to showcase creativity and served a course made almost entirely from locally grown trumpet mushrooms. It appeared to be a trio of seared scallops (confit stem) over a truffled mushroom puree (poached cap) with sliced radish (pickled sliced stem). It was a crowd pleaser!
SKAJEWSKI CATERING BEGAN… early this year as I started receiving more and more requests from clients I didn’t know. My private caterings have been around for a while, through donations to the Make-A-Wish South Dakota and with family/ friends, but word of mouth got ahead of me. As a business, I’ve created a website where clients can easily contact us, find sample menus, meet my team, and understand what Skajewski Catering truly is.
YOU MIGHT KNOW ME FROM… the local restaurant scene or Avera Health. I currently serve as the executive chef of Avera, overseeing the food service operations at our three McKennan locations (soon to be five, yay Avera on Louise!). Before Avera, I was the executive chef at Carnaval Brazilian Grill showing our community how Brazilian food could be more than just meat on a skewer.
MY GO-TO DISH AT HOME IS… Pho. I don’t think Vietnamese food gets enough attention in Sioux Falls. It’s delicious and typically quite healthy, almost always gluten and dairy free, and the dishes always have five culinary elements to stand on: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. I have a good Vietnamese friend who tells me his mom makes “the best Pho ever,” and it is now a goal of mine to get her approval.
I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT LOCAL INGREDIENTS…because I enjoy eating healthy, cooking with quality ingredients, supporting the local economy, and knowing that my ingredients were grown and transported safely to my prep table. Building relationships with the farmers I purchase from is also very important to me. I love being able to have input on what they will grow next season, promote their products, and share my creations back with them is really rewarding for all of us.
“i find enjoyment and inspiration from all things nature, and when that is always changing, so are we.”
MY FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP FOR INGREDIENTS IS… always changing, depending on the season. One place that’s constant is Plum’s Cooking Company. I purchase all of my artisan oils, vinegars, salts, and seasonings through them. I need to be careful though… I may go for some bourbon smoked salt and fig infused balsamic vinegar and walk out with a dutch oven. In terms of fresh ingredients, I love purchasing at the farmers’ market when in season, but I don’t always have the time to make it out there. The Co-Op Natural Foods is also high on my list. I would like to acknowledge that our big-box grocers in town are doing a much better job of stocking local produce, proteins, and dairy, as well.
I GET INSPIRED FOR DISHES BY… traveling. I am lucky enough to find time to travel (occasionally), and through the internet, am able to “travel.”
CLIENTS CAN SIGN UP FOR EDUCATIONAL CLASSES, WHICH ARE… chef-driven cooking classes in your own home. I have clients using these cooking classes to learn the basics and some to learn dishes they’ve always wanted to replicate at home. These classes are beneficial to the client as they are extremely hands on, intimate, and are taught using the equipment and materials in your own home. Each class will get you educated, fulfill your appetite, and leave you with recipes and homework for next time.
CATERING WITH SKAJEWSKI CATERING MENUS LOOKS LIKE… a blank slate for each and every client. Our website has sample menus available for viewing, but we pride ourselves in not having standardized menus. We work with each client to create a custom menu that exactly fits their needs.
MY FAVORITE CASUAL PLACE TO GRAB A BITE IS… currently R Wine Bar. Ricardo Tarabelsi did a great job with the old Prairie Berry East Bank space. I enjoy spending time there because it is such a simple and spacious concept and the staff is great to talk with. Fine charcuterie and artisan wine is a pairing that I could go for every night.
IF I WANT TO TREAT MYSELF, I’LL WINE AND DINE AT… Parker’s Bistro. Stacy Newcomb-Weiland runs such a fantastic bistro there on Main, and my wife and I absolutely love dining there any chance we get. The service staff is impeccable, and every time we go they are more impressive than the last time.
WHEN I’M NOT COOKING, I’M… spending time with my beautiful wife Sarah, and two wonderful daughters (5 and 3 months). We love camping, playing with our dogs and cat, and visiting Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. Of course, I try to sneak in some golf when weather permits.
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT SOUTH DAKOTA IS… the seasons. I absolutely love them all. I find enjoyment and inspiration from all things nature, and when that is always changing, so are we. South Dakota is beautiful year-round and our community adapts well. From golfing to time at the lake to snowball fights to downhill skiing, we have it all here in South Dakota.
ONE PLACE I WOULD LOVE TO TRAVEL TO IN THE STATE IS… Sturgis during the rally! I’ve never been, and my wife tells me it’s an absolute blast. We plan on making a trip out there very soon. I don’t know much about motorcycles, but I hear there is food… right?!
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SKAJEWSKICATERING.COM.
A PEEK INTO A SAMPLE MENU
» ARUGULA SALAD
Marinated trumpet mushroom, golden beet, dehydrated Parmesan crisp, pickled shallot, honey vinaigrette, and smoked salt.
Artisan cheeses, cured meats, pickled seasonal produce, ripe fruit, and the Chef’s choice of fine accompaniments.
» GAME HEN
Sous vide, rosemary, garlic, ancient grains, cognac pan sauce, and charred parsnip shiitake puree.
» GRILLED HALLOUMI
Seared soft cheese, cured ceviche, lime, charred corn salad, scallion, and crispy pancetta.
» BISON WELLINGTON
Local bison tenderloin, herbed gournay, wild mushroom paté, and bourbon smoked salt.
» BANANAS FOSTER CRÉME BRÛLÉE
Rum, vanilla custard, sugar glass, caramelized banana, cinnamon, and caramel.
» CHOCOLATE CUSTARD
Eighty percent dark chocolate, sea salt, bourbon caramel, and candied almond.
» BANANA NUT DAQUIRI
Bumbu Caribbean rum, pecan & almond simple syrup, and lime juice.
» BENNY’S MARGARITA
Codigo reposado tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and agave syrup.
» ESPRESSO MARTINI
Ketel One, Licor 43, Patrón XO Cafe, espresso, and simple syrup.
» FRENCH QUARTER OLD FASHIONED
Hennessy cognac, FEW rye whiskey, simple syrup, and Bitterman’s burlesque bitters.