Skill with his hands has taken Reese Skulteti in varied directions over the course of his career.
His path toward becoming Friday Saturday Sunday’s head chef four years ago had an unlikely start: construction work in Allentown, about an hour north of Philadelphia. With every winter came layoffs and months of unemployment. He worked as a restaurant dish-washer to make ends meet until those construction gigs came back with the warmer weather.
“It’s a nice warm kitchen, you know, lots of food to eat…waitresses…what better place for a construction worker to be?” Skulteti says.
Skulteti, now in charge of running one of those warm, food-filled kitchens, has come a long way from his construction days. He has his hands full preparing the restaurant for a booked-solid run during Center City Restaurant Week, where restaurants in the city’s downtown area offer special multiple-course meals for a flat rate. He has also taken part in the restaurant’s podcast recordings, walking listeners through the preparation of the Pate Maison and the Dijon cream sauce featured on the restaurant’s Chicken Dijon entrée.
Skulteti started taking on restaurant jobs during construction work lulls when he was a teenager and kept at it for about ten years. “I was washing dishes, working my way up through the ranks. Always at a different place,” he says.
Skulteti later worked as a sauce chef at an Allentown hotel and pate-maker at a charcuterie before moving to the city, where took a job as sous chef at West Philadelphia’s White Dog Café. He worked there about five years before Friday Saturday Sunday lured him away with promise of a promotion to head chef.
The transition was rough at first. Workplace politics stirred some resentment toward the new hire.
“It was strange. It’s like, I’m the new guy. I don’t know when they’ve hired a chef from outside before; they were always promoted from within. Let’s say I got a little more than a little resistance at first.”
With a new kitchen staff came smoother sailing, he says.
Skulteti went from running a chainsaw to running a kitchen by picking up culinary skills as he went along. He didn’t go to culinary school to pick up the tools of the trade; the learning happened on the job, he says.
“I pick things up pretty easy,” Skulteti says. “I’m pretty in tune with the arts.”
He’s not just talking about the culinary arts. Friday Saturday Sunday’s Web site boasts that its head chef is “known to play a mean guitar.”
Skulteti cops to the rock star claim, though he says he doesn’t have a lot of time to play since the restaurant takes up most of his time. He misses playing the guitar, but the restaurant comes first.
“It takes up a lot of time, but I love it,” he says.
Skulteti, who lives a short walk away from work at 20th Street and Locust, hates being asked whether he has a signature style. His philosophy is simple: “I just like to cook food.”