Kristine M. Kierzek
When he’s not cooking, you’ll likely find Thomas Schultz paddleboarding or rock climbing. It’s a change from the hustle and bustle of restaurant kitchens and the worries of everyday life, which he particularly needed.
Going through a pandemic and the death of his father in recent years, the dual passion has helped the Brookfield Central graduate find balance.
While studying history in college, it was while working at the Lake Park Bistro under Mark Weber decades ago that Schultz embarked on a culinary career. The convergence of food, culture and history drew him to fine dining and hotels, including The Iron Horse and St. Kate, and worked as a private chef.
Now he is the executive chef of Lime Cantina, W62 N550 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg, delving into Latin American influences. Lime Cantina is currently open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
He is also among the participating chefs donating time to cook for the Farm-to-Table Brunch fundraiser for the national nonprofit Community Liver Alliance, held Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Halverson House in Waterford. Tickets start at $150 for individuals. For more information, visit communityliveralliance.org Where one.bidpal.net/faf2022.
Question: From Lake Park Bistro to Lime Cantina, what have you learned from your time in restaurant kitchens?
Answer: I started at Bartolotta’s in 1997 and then followed Mark Weber to open Watermark Seafood. From there, by learning from some of the best chefs in the country, you start to gain momentum of your own. …Part of the calling is learning about the cultures, history and growth of food. Before cooking, I was going to be a high school history teacher…
At one point I owned my own business, working as a personal chef for Michael Redd when he was on the Olympic team and the Bucks. You make the exact needs of a family. In restaurants, you respond to a culture of need or desire of the society around you…
From restaurant to business owner to personal chef to a hotel is a very eye-opening experience. Every step of the way helped me learn and made everything else a little easier. Once you make a hotel, there isn’t much left to wait for. Four years with the Iron Horse Hotel and meeting Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, The Scorpions, an experience like that in itself is wonderful.
Q: How did you start cooking?
A: My father worked third shift and my mother first. Papa was a printer and lithographer. My mother was a nurse. We grew up with a giant garden. It was hey, what vegetable do you want for dinner? Go pick it up. It was a great way for my mom to get my brother and I to eat vegetables, but because of it, I had a great connection to food.
Then I became a wrestler and had to keep the weight low for 90% of the year. When I ate, I saved money and went to Sanford when I was in high school. I taught a group of my friends and all of our relatives. I taught them how to cook chateaubriand and lobster tails. I watched Julia Child and Jacques Pepin; Later, I had the opportunity to cook with Jacques Pepin, the legend, in his house in Madison, Connecticut.
Q: How did you get involved with Fresh-A-Fare? Why do you give of your time?
A: When I came back to Milwaukee from Connecticut, the gentleman I was working for had brain cancer and passed away. Then my father fell ill. I was helping my mother take care of him. One of the reasons I love getting involved in fundraisers and charities is that many of them are close to where I live.
Also, working with Bartolotta was all the events that Paul and Joe were involved in, and at a young age he learned how much money it could raise for awareness. For me, cancer is in my family. Anything I can do to share my talent to help raise funds for awareness and improve the world, I will.
Dee (Girard) was at the American Liver Foundation, and she’s a character who supports her leaders and we support her. Fresh-A-Fare is for a good cause. People come to our restaurants to have a good meal, to have fun. When we organize charitable activities, we raise funds and awareness to save lives.
Q: What should people know about chef collaborations at this event?
A: We will have 150 people coming. What’s great about this event is that it’s a chef-to-chef collaboration. I work with Jon Manyo from Morel. Jon makes cookies, I make pheasant sausage sauce.
Q: Where are you when you’re not cooking?
A: I made it a point to try to normalize my lifestyle a bit. Starting at 7 or 8 in the morning and working until 9 or 10 in the evening is expensive. In your twenties and thirties, it’s not so bad, but it’s a sacrifice. I sacrificed my 30 years, I did nothing but work but I acquired all this knowledge.
Now, when I’m not working, I go out for brunch. I do Good Eats in Pewaukee, a favorite brunch spot. Then after brunch, depending on the wind speed, I’ll text my paddleboard group members and drive to Waupaca or Oconomowoc or a waterway. I’ve entered calendar or jigsaw contests, and my photos are now in two different jigsaws and three different calendars. So I chase the sunsets, enjoy the beauty of nature, and be outdoors. … If the wind is too strong, I have a subscription to Adventure Rock.
Q: What do you always or never order when dining out?
A: If I like a place, I go there until I have everything on the menu. I always order things in hopes of sharing my meal with everyone at the table. That’s how I like to eat. My friend says “I always get the net.” I say why? If you’ve never had something, you have to try it.
Q: Tell us about Lime Cantina. What can people expect?
A: The best margaritas you’ve ever had, definitely a steal of margaritas. I mixed the culture and techniques I’ve learned all my life, so flavors are vibrant, not your typical Mexican restaurant. I like to say it’s a really fun time. We do quizzes on Tuesdays, wing specials on Wednesdays, groups on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We mix pleasure with food.
Q: What is your craziest or most memorable meal?
A: In 1999, on October 10. I believe it was the second lesson at Robbi and Paul Bartolotta’s wedding. Ravioli and uvo, a ravioli with egg yolk inside, sometimes a duck egg. This bite changed my life. It was decadent and the most overwhelming bite I’ve ever had.
Q: What is the most memorable meal you have cooked or for whom you have cooked?
A: I cooked for Michele Obama…when they were running for president. This fundraiser has been amazing for the people I have been able to meet. I was really young. Then Honorary General Counsel of Belgium and cooking with Jacques Pépin in his own kitchen. When people ask me the most important thing you cooked for, I always say my mother, or when I find her, my wife. I have to say though that the coolest thing was with Jacques Pepin.
Related:Former ER nurse teaches cooking school and leads culinary tours around the world
Table Chat features interviews with Wisconsinites, or native Wisconsinites, who work in restaurants or support the restaurant industry; or guest chefs. To suggest people to profile, email [email protected]