Campus Closeup: Nathan Mileski
Nathan Mileski (Dining Services) is hard-pressed to name a personal hobby that doesn’t involve food. He is an enthusiast who enjoys every stage of making meals, from hunting and fishing to curing meats to creating and preparing recipes.
“I love cooking, I love being around food. It’s been my life for the last 18 years. I started doing this when I was 15 and I haven’t really looked back,” Mileski said.
Mileski grew up in a house with a male-dominated kitchen. The men in his family were always cooking for fun, not professionally. He enjoyed spending time helping out. At age 15, the Marquette native got his first restaurant job at a local place that has since gone out of business. He fell in love with his job and stayed in the restaurant field. Mileski said he has worked every position possible: server, bartender, busboy, dishwasher, cook and host.
After completing about three quarters of the hospitality management program at NMU, his adviser recommended that he attend culinary school. He took advantage of an opportunity to study at the Culinary Institute of America, which has a highly competitive program and typically accepts only 72 students per semester.
After completing his culinary training, Mileski went to work at the Lafayette Country Club in Minnetonka Beach, Minn. He later spent five years as executive chef/food and beverage director at the Drummond Island Resort and Conference Center in Michigan. Under his direction, Bayside Dining was featured in Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines as one of the state's top 12 restaurants.
Mileski is now the senior chef and unit manager for the Wildcat Den and conference and catering services. He's a fairly recent addition to the NMU staff and said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with former dining services general manager Andre Mallie. Mileski said he enjoys pushing forward with the ideas Mallie implemented, as well as some of his own.
“We’re just trying to follow dining service’s mission statement and we’re trying to bring fresher, healthier quality food to campus. We’re trying to stay away from pre-made products,” Mileski said.
He oversees all the employees in the Den, from the chefs to the student workers. He does everything from menu planning to ordering supplies and scheduling. In addition, Mileski works with conference and catering services to create menus for on- and off-campus clients.
“We’re not just going into the freezer and popping something into a pan; we’re actually cooking. The menus I helped design are based on freshness and organic sustainable products – local if we can do local. We’re really starting to produce homestyle, healthy meals here, which I think is great,” Mileski said.
Even his hobbies extend to food in some way. He likes hunting all kinds of game, including deer and birds, as well as fishing. Mileski is interested in charcuterie, which is the art of smoking and preserving meats. This method is a classic way to preserve meat and not waste any part of the animal. He described it as an “old world hobby” and a “kind of art form that has been lost.”
“I’m a true believer in that if you’re going to hunt, that you need to utilize the animal to its full potential and that you’re not just shooting it to shoot it,” Mileski said.
He might have an opportunity to put that into practice with the upcoming deer hunting season.