A personal interview with Vann executive chef Erik Skaar.
After spending his childhood in Plymouth, Erik Skaar began developing his cooking style by working in some of the best kitchens across the country. In 2019, with Lake Minnetonka as a backdrop, he opened Vann restaurant in Spring Park. Skaar attributes his award-winning success to the uniqueness, consistency and novel approach he takes to fine dining.
“The concept is unique compared to a lot of other restaurants here in the cities,” executive chef Skaar says. “I source a little bit more obscure product, and I like to be adventurous.”
Vann’s prix fixe menu changes daily depending on what Skaar is inspired by at the market, his research and what is seasonably available from his fish purveyors, farmers and foragers, ensuring access to rarefied ingredients, including sea grapes, uni, tilefish, oyster mushrooms, Hokkaido sweet potatoes, Hokkigai clam and fresh wasabi root.
But it’s what happened when he was 16 that inspired his food adventures and changed the trajectory of Skaar’s life.
Get to know Skaar outside his no less than 72-hour work week.
Most memorable meal?
When I was 16, my aunt Cyndi and [late] uncle Ernie took me to the Four Seasons in Manhattan. I don’t remember exactly what I ate, but I know I had filet and roasted dry-aged duck.
Why did you become a chef?
Going to the high-end restaurants in New York when I was 16 sparked everything. I had never tasted or experienced anything like that before, and I loved the environment and the creativity with food—I didn’t know that was possible. Later, I cooked while I was in school at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis and decided when I got out of school, I wanted to go into the kitchen instead of the studio. Now I curate the music at Vann, pairing the mood with the atmosphere and food.
Best thing about being a chef in your own restaurant?
I love creative control. I like being able to do what I want and do what inspires me on that given day.
Your second passion?
The gun range, target shooting with a pistol.
Vann is in Spring Park. Why live in Plymouth?
I purchased my house here before I opened the restaurant. My wife and two children have friends and go to school close to here. We have a great neighborhood and great neighbors.
How do you spend your day off in Plymouth?
I like to play in the yard with my kids and go fishing at Medicine Lake. My son loves fishing. There [are] good hiking trails around here too.
Is there a food you don’t like?
Ketchup. Any food that has ketchup on it or in it.
My Minneapolis skyline. I got it when I was working in Colorado. I missed home a little bit, and I love my city, so I wanted to put it on my body.
Top tip to elevate our cooking at home?
Brine meats and fish. Put any spice or aromatic in a brine and it imparts more flavor. Let the seasoning penetrate the meat, and you get a juicier product.