By Ingrid Schaefer Sprague | Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
“I first walked into the facility 17 years ago and could not stop looking up,” Sklodowski says. “The wooden-beamed ceiling that forms the dome is over 50 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. The circular dining room is unobstructed by columns and exudes positive energy because there are no corners to get lost or stuck. The dance floor is the largest that I have ever seen, and the stage and balcony embrace the facility.”
Located on the property of St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Astrodome was originally built by the parish to be a school, but the school never opened and the facility was repurposed.
“Rev. Andrew Ulicky began the construction of the Astrodome in May of 1961,” Anne Wojanis, the event coordinator at As You Like It, says. “It took eight years to build and was blessed by Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop Ambrose Senyshyn, on April 20, 1969. Much of the work was done by dedicated parishioners.”
Components of the beamed ceiling were created by assembling equally spaced triangles in a pattern similar to a geodesic dome, with volunteer labor helping to create each triangle component. Fortunately, the structure found a new home and purpose, providing a unique and beautiful backdrop for As You Like It catering.
“Most of the comments and compliments received are about the beautiful high beamed wooden ceilings and the structure related to the open and unobstructed views,” Wojanis says. “There are no columns. Also, given the round layout, there is a positive flow of energy. There are no corners for anything or anybody to hide, and your vision is constantly focused on the most important part — the party and guests.”
This unique venue has catered to several historical events as well as private events, catering 250 to 700 guests. As You Like It catered the U.S. presidential campaigns for President George W. Bush, hosting him personally during his election campaign in 1992, and Vice President Dick Cheney for the President’s re-election campaign in 2004. While this event posed one-of-a-kind challenges, such as having Secret Service on site, it is not the only event with special requirements.
Sklodowski says his most unique event was Dare to Care in 2013. “The entire facility was transformed into a runway stage,” he says. “VIP areas had to be created, menu items were designed to satisfy a diverse and eclectic mix of people, and the backrooms were opened to a flurry of activity to accommodate models, designers, and stylists. I knew it was large when the generators were brought in to boost the electrical usage.”
Another memorable catering event for Sklodowski included the USO Greater Cleveland Chapter during peacetime. “That was a presentation to be seen,” he says. “The Military Precision Team was breathtaking.”
The Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism, the largest nonprofit organization serving Northeast Ohio military families, also holds its yearly Red, White, and Groove Gala at the Astrodome. In its fourth year NEOPAT’s gala needed to be moved from its former location due to an increased number of guests — from 350 people to 670 attendees.
“The Astrodome was able to accommodate our growing event without a hiccup,” NEOPAT President and Co-founder Mike Swallow says. “During our introductory conversations Rick told me that he would have dinner at every table within 20 minutes from beginning to end, and he has been able to deliver on his promise. That is huge when it comes to the flow of our event and the experience of the people attending the gala.”
After the event, NEOPAT surveyed their guests, who said they were “absolutely blown away by the beauty and elegance of the facility,” Swallow says.
As You Like It has hosted outreach programs for University Hospitals, fundraisers for Mount Alverna Village, anniversary dinners for St. Michael Catholic Church, of Independence, and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, of Cleveland, and annual gatherings for North American Manufacturing and Parma City Schools. The caterer hosts 40 to 45 events annually, which is most weekends of the year, with the busiest time running from March through November. Sklodowski estimates that his hosted events are 60 percent formal dining and wedding venue and 40 percent corporate.
As You Like It is comprised of Sklodowski and Rob Loeser, who are part owners and chefs, and Linda Skladany and Wojanis, who are the event coordinators. Décor is provided by the in-house services of Cathryn’s Creative Detail and photography by Human Artist Photography.
Chef Sklodowski, who grew up in a “foodie” family, began with wedding cakes and specialty bakery and naturally transitioned to full-scale catering. “We tailor each menu to the client, whether it is a Caribbean fare or a union of European and Indian flavors,” he says. “By far, our most popular dish, chicken breast supreme, was designed by my partner, Rob, 27 years ago. It has got us every contract we have ever gone after.
“Our specialty mini pierogi (of various flavors) and devils-on-horseback (dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped with bacon) have always been a big hit. This past year has seen menu items that reflected foods native to the Samoan islands, India, Greece, Poland, Ukraine, Mexico, Bohemia, Austria, Italy, and the Delaware Indian Tribe. Our kitchen staff works to make sure every bite — start to finish — is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue.”
According to NEOPAT’s Swallow, As You Like It catering and the Astrodome provide a memorable experience.
“If an organization is looking to partner with people who have pride in hosting an event and providing a unique experience, then you will not find anyone better than Rick, Linda, and Anne at As You Like it catering,” Swallow says. “They communicate, problem solve and utilize their experience and expertise to deliver an event with a high level of execution and attention to details.”
For more information: asyoulikeitcleveland.com