Great food is done simple at Skaliwags by Chef Chris
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – There is a constantly changing menu at Skaliwags by Chef Chris, and the founding chef wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A lot of places buy inexpensive food and try to make it taste good,” said Chris Wiltfang, founding chef. “We buy the best there is and honor it by not overcooking it, overseasoning it, or over anything to it. We’ve always let the food stand on its own.”
As a restaurant that serves seafood in the main dishes, freshness is the key to distinction.
“All of our fresh seafood comes straight from Hawaii,” Chef Chris said. “It’s 37 hours from hook to cook.”
New cryogenic technology allows the fish to be frozen, while still retaining the fresh flavor and letting the meat breathe, he said.
The benefit for this is that fish will always be fresh at Skaliwags by Chef Chris. The downside is that once it is sold out, it’s gone.
Chef Chris has been the head chef at Skaliwags in Algoma, Skaliwags Uncorked in Kewaunee and in the Skaliwagon food truck. In every kitchen he has the same philosophy.
“Don’t overseason it, cook it in butter, don’t overcook it, put it over some delicious sides and that’s as good as it’s going to get,” he said.
Chef Chris said he has had no problem sending back food to his suppliers that isn’t up to his standards. He has done it before in his kitchens.
Outside factors like the weather and the fishing the day before can affect what’s on the menu.
But the Suamico location only seats 112 at a time, which is great for when working with a limited supply of food.
The downside is people may get upset when a dish they were hoping to eat gets eighty-sixed, or axed from the menu.
Aside from fresh seafood, Chef Chris has personally toured meat factories and strives to serve heritage beef and pork that can be traced back via bloodlines to verify certified Angus status.
The same goes for vegetables, said Chef Chris, who only wants the best for his customers.
After some health scares he said he realizes how important quality vegetables are.
“It has changed my cooking in that we are sourcing great vegetables, really sourcing it,” he said. “If it’s not great we’ll send it back.”
The combination of freshness, knowledge, quality-sourced food and no fancy theatrics in the kitchen has produced solid results, he said.
“It’s the most simple form of cooking there is,” Chef Chris said. “It’s like French cooking without the fluff. It’s cooking with love and passion and it’s the best there is.”
Opening a location in Suamico in the Urban Edge Towne Centre off Lineville Road was also a clear choice for the experienced chef.
“If you look at the numbers per capita, it is clear this road right here in front of my restaurant gets more traffic than anywhere in Wisconsin,” he said.
Right now Skaliwags by Chef Chris is going through a soft opening. He said it will stay that way until everything is up to his standards.
“We have no opening date, we just have soft openings because I’m not opening it until it’s right,” he said. “I’m not expecting a well-oiled machine, but I don’t want it dropping rust either.”
Anyone looking for a table during the soft opening can check out Skaliwags by Chef Chris on Facebook for more information.