A Day with Priscila Satkoff

Pricilafin

When Priscila Satkoff and her husband, Vince, opened Salpicón almost 19 years ago at 1252 North Wells Street, she thought she was just going to cook in a professional kitchen. “Wrong! It took me three months to learn that I needed to delegate if I wanted to be in this business,” she says. Clearly, she’s figured it out.

Chef Satkoff’s contemporary take on Mexican cuisine – and the restaurant’s impressive list of agave tequilas and award-winning wine list – has earned her national and local accolades. Her artistry and nostalgic approach to classic flavors are just two reasons why restaurant-goers can’t get enough of the Salpicón experience. Chef Satkoff tells TCW how her chaotic schedule and inner genius collide.

6:30am I’m texting my fish guy, asking what kind of tuna he has for a tuna tartare (my new dish). We text back-and-forth until I place an order to arrive mid-morning. I add the rest of the tuna tartare ingredients to my produce order and make phone calls. In the meantime, I check my personal e-mails, have coffee and relax before starting my day.

7am I spend time working out and in the sauna. After a shower, I’m ready to go to the Salpicón office to do paper work, schedules, e-banking, payroll, et cetera. I talk to potential distributors and my produce guy, who knows what’s in the market.

10am Some days, I spend time doing preparations and supervising. Others, I continue my office work. But when I’m preparing a new recipe, I put on my chef’s jacket and go to the Salpicón kitchen. My prep guy’s already there, and we’ve received deliveries from the order I placed the previous night, which includes dairy, meat, fresh fish and tuna for my new dish. I’ve been waiting for the tuna – it’s a gorgeous piece of center-cut Ahi. First, I dice the tuna, add chopped chiles de árbol and what else…it needs something! Onion? No, too strong. Chives? Yes, chopped chives. It needs something acidic like lime juice, and maybe olive oil. It’s getting there, but avocado always helps, and of course some crispy green apple plus salt and pepper for taste. To cut the lime’s acidity, I make a chile de árbol cream to balance the flavor of my nueva creación. At this point I’m very happy. Creating a new dish isn’t easy, and many times I have something in mind but it doesn’t work.

12pm I have a dentist appointment and tell my staff to call my cell if they need me. On my way back, I receive a call from one of my line cooks telling me he can’t work that night. I can’t have an empty position on the line, so I make calls until I find another line cook. The linen delivery hasn’t arrived and it’s already late. I call the company who says the driver was in an accident and they have to send another truck. I ask them to hurry because I’m short on tablecloths. The rest of my kitchen staff arrives and starts setting up. The bartender tells me the temperature in one of the red wine coolers is too high, so I ask him to move all the wine to the wine cellar and keep just a few bottles for service in the other cooler. I need a break!

4:30pm I call a meeting to tell the front-of-the-house staff about the new dish. I present it to the service team to taste and the sommelier to pair it with wine. Everybody’s happy, including Vincent, our wine director and proprietor.

5pm Let’s open for business! At this point I start ‘working’ and usually love to be in the dining room, greeting and welcoming people. Vincent thinks I’m nosy, but I’m just curious! During service I go back-and-forth from the dining room to the kitchen, orchestrating the acts of the evening.

6pm It’s time to do food inventory and get ready for tomorrow. We have a private party booked for the second floor, so I start ordering ingredients for this event, which has it’s own custom menu. I work every single party myself because I love them.

11pm I leave the restaurant. Every night at the end of my busy day, I wonder how much longer I’m going to be working 15-16 hour days. This business requires a lot of time and dedication, of which I’m still doing both, but I love what I do and I’m happy to have the chance to do it.

Sarah_Osterman

About Sarah Osterman Myers

Sarah Osterman Myers pursued studies at Mercyhurst College and the University of Nebraska Lincoln before transferring to Columbia College Chicago to study journalism and dance. As a writer, Ms. Myers is interested in the arts/culture world and has published work in ECHO Magazine and Today’s Chicago Woman. As a dancer, she's open to all types of movement experiences and has performed with Laboratory Dancers and Mucca Pazza.