When Neiman Marcus plans a gala for major clients, you can be sure the high-end retailer doesn’t trot out trays of cubed cheese and grapes. The menu has to be as cutting edge as the fashions in the Somerset Collection store. So for a recent sit-down dinner party for a VIP guest list of 90, N-M took a chance on a new catering firm, hoping to get away from the traditional for something more creative.
Zack Sklar, of — coincidentally enough, a catering firm called Cutting Edge Cuisine — was asked to come up with a menu. And when he did a pre-party tasting for the planning committee, says Lexa Leatherdale, N-M’s special-events coordinator, they were blown away, after a momentary gasp, by just how young-looking chef Sklar is.
He’s 24, to be exact. But his self-confidence, youth, and energy were just what they were looking for. “What impressed me most,” Leatherdale says, “was his innovation and creative approach.” The menu included a charcuterie tasting, white truffle and corn custard with Parmesan foam served in an eggshell, and smoked sea scallops with guacamole, lime-scented tortilla chips, and a Corona shooter, among other dishes, including homemade Oreo cookies as part of the dessert.
Sometimes, Leatherdale says, a caterer’s presentation can be beautiful, but the flavor isn’t there. Or the food has great taste, but doesn’t look very good. With Cutting Edge, she says, “we got them both.”
That’s a pretty nice endorsement for the young company founded by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate while he was still a student in Hyde Park, N.Y.
He moved Cutting Edge to Michigan a little over a year ago. It was a homecoming for the Farmington Hills native, who had been pushed to attend the CIA by Rick Halberg while Sklar was a North Farmington High School student working at Halberg’s Northville restaurant, Emily’s.
“With a couple of friends, I started doing events at people’s homes in the Hudson Valley, just for the cost of the food,” he explains, until business started to “grow and grow. It was just unbelievable.” Soon, he and his three main associates were being booked for big events, including outdoor weddings “with tents, flowers, linens, all these things,” and he was employing 25 part-time people.
Although business was good, there was a lot of competition in the area from big-name catering companies in New York and Connecticut, and Sklar decided that what worked in the affluent Hudson Valley would also work in Oakland County.
He brought his pastry chef, Justin Kurtz, with him, and the two were able to snag the catering job for Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield Township. The temple allows the pair to use its large commercial kitchen for their catering business.
Sklar is also looking for a location for a restaurant he hopes to open in Birmingham.
Cutting Edge Cuisine; 866-751-6680, cuttingedgecuisine.com.