About two weeks ago, 35-year-old chef Michael Shikany finally opened his eponymous restaurant, Shikany, in Wynwood. The 4,000 square foot eatery doubles as a cooking school and isn't any "one type of restaurant," says the owner/executive chef. It is, however, a space where Shikany will dabble in various flavors and cuisines as well as offer multiple, equally eclectic cooking classes. Eater spoke to chef Shikany about the first week, reactions so far, what to expect at those cooking classes and more. Here's the scoop:
How and when did you come up with the concept for Shikany?
I rented the space in March of 2012. We were looking to do a catering company, so we were going to use this as a catering and events space, but I decided that it would be better just to do a restaurant. People had been trying to get us to do a restaurant for a while and I was finally ready and decided to change it to that.
What made you decide to integrate the restaurant with a cooking school?
Overall, we wanted to make sure that we could have a space where we could teach out guests and do something where people could actually learn about different types of cuisine that we cook. So, we wanted to put together something where we would have the ability to run in the daytime as a cooking school and at night time be a restaurant. At the cooking school we're going to do full six month rotations where you can sign up for a full six months and receive your own knife bag, start from the basic knife skills to stocks and everything or you can just buy a course any time you want to come in for a certain class, but if we fill up for people that have signed up for the full package then you can't do that.
How was the first week?
Amazing actually. I'm very surprised about how much feedback we're getting and how everything's turned out. People love the space, the décor, our service, food, everything.
Tell me about your style of cooking and what diners can expect when they go to Shikany.
We're trying make it so that you're not going to be able to expect anything. We're going to change the menu every month. There's a few things that people are coming back for and talking about, but we want to make it more of a journey where you try new things. Something that you haven't seen before. We don't want to keep it the same old "oh I have a signature dish" or anything. We do stuff from all over the world, so the menu's very eclectic. I don't want us to be in a niche or genre where we have to be one type of a restaurant. The other day I heard that I was Pan Asian and I was like "oh Pan Asian, that's cool," I mean, I have lobster mac and cheese on there, I don't think that's Pan Asian. If anything, it's global cuisine with French influence. This way it's fun for us as well. I want to make sure that I'm still having fun while I work and we get to change and try new stuff. I just don't want us to be stuck somewhere.
Tell me more about the cooking school aspect.
I'm teaching them along with my pastry chef and my sous chef. We'll always be present in the classes even if they're going pastry, I'll still be there to help out and set up. We'll just teach and walk around and critique them and show them how to do things, see if they're doing anything wrong, that kind of stuff. But it's going to be fun. We're not going to like test you or tell you you've failed or anything like that. Everybody's going to enjoy themselves.
Why did you choose Wynwood for the location?
I think it's one of the best area's to be in right now, so up and coming. It's like the meat packing district like 15 years ago. There's so much going on here, it's artsy, it's definitely a place where … when people come by and see the place they don't even know where they are. We're in one of those places that you look in and you're like "what is in there?" We're next to a body shop and an event space, nobody even knows. There's no sign outside, we just have a huge, beautiful garden wall. It's one of those places that's very eclectic and very different.
Anything in store for the future?
Um, I may take a nap … at some point in my life. I can't remember the last time … I'm exhausted. I have to be here, you know, we're starting out and going through those growing pains. We're looking at some point in time, if this does well, we're looking at D.C. and Chicago next.
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[Photo Courtesy of Michael Pissari]