As a chef for Anderson Pavilion at Smale Riverfront Park, Mathew Jaskolka is not your ordinary cook. Where other budding chefs around the city are tweaking that one immaculate plate of food, Jaskolka is busy perfecting dozens of plates, sometimes hundreds. Sometimes thousands.
It's a job that requires Jaskolka not only to craft restaurant-quality dishes, but also to replicate those dishes on a breathtaking scale.
If you've ever been to an event at Anderson Pavilion, you likely already know what I discovered watching Jaskolka work: He pulls it off. Deliciously.
What does a typical day-of look like?
A typical day at the shop usually starts at 7 a.m., earlier if there are any breakfast orders. We devise a prep list for the day and as far out as we can for the week just to get an idea of what’s to come. After that, the mode switches to production for all the events of the day and the week. Around 2:30 p.m., we start putting orders out to be delivered for the evening, including jobs that have chefs cooking on site. This is also the time that we are preparing tastes for prospective guests or guests that have to decide on a menu for their booked events.
What kind of challenges do you face?
Allergies and lifestyle diets are just something that comes with the territory these days. That's another way I think catering is more challenging. Sure we have set menus, but if we get a surprise allergy while on location we don't bring our whole kitchen with us, so we have to come up with something on the spot or go find something to accommodate our guests. The only way any guest should leave our events is satisfied with the meal we have provided, no matter what it took for us to make that happen. "No" isn't really an option for us when a guest needs something.
What would be the ideal menu for your own event?
I am totally content with a perfectly cooked (medium-rare) filet and a lobster tail, with butter of course. A nice bundle of broccolini and maybe a baked sweet potato with cinnamon butter to finish it off. Actually, that would make a real nice fall menu idea!
Do you watch cooking shows?
I tend to steer away from those types of shows because they focus more on the person than the food; however, I do like Cut Throat Kitchen because the contestants try to sabotage each other and you really get to see who the craftiest chefs are. I think that show depicts what it can be like on a job without all the comforts of your shop kitchen.
What ingredient do you hope you never have to use when you cook?
I used to have an irrational hatred of tofu, but after I learned how to do some cool things with it, I enjoyed making something that I don't particularly care for taste awesome.
What ingredient do you never get to use that you would love to if money/location weren't an issue?
I would honestly just like some scallops right out of the ocean. Just a little salt and pepper, sear them in butter in a screaming hot pan and eat them immediately.
Mathew Jaskolka of Anderson Pavilion Culinary Group and Chef de Cuisine for Vonderhaars Catering
For more information about Anderson Pavilion, visit their website.