Sudakovs move from West Coast to Sheffield to run B&B

Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne
Jeff and Monika Sudakov are innkeepers at Chestnut Street Inn, Sheffield, where Monika also is the chef.

Jeff and Monika Sudakov, innkeepers at Chestnut Street Inn, Sheffield, are very pleased with their decision to relocate to a rural mid-west area and open a bed and breakfast. “Having a bed and breakfast is something we really wanted to do. We searched all over the country looking for just the right one,” Jeff said. “And we found it.”

The couple were living in California at the time and were looking for a bed and breakfast, Monika said, but they wanted one that was already established. “We didn’t want to have to do a lot of remodeling that might take quite a while, we wanted a place that would be ready to go,” she said. Jeff added their current home was established, had already met code requirements and was zoned correctly. “And there was already a bath in every guest room,” he said. “We wanted a bed and breakfast that could become a country inn in the true sense of the word.”

They have been innkeepers of Chestnut Street Inn for the past four years and, in that time, have offered their guests not only gracious accommodations in their beautiful, historic home with its breathtaking foyer and floating spindle staircase, but the chance to experience delicious cuisine with an international influence.

Under Monika’s experienced chef’s hand guests are treated to a variety of culinary tastes including those from many ethnicities. “We do a lot of different menus from around the world,” Jeff said. “We’ve found that people like to get out of their comfort zone sometimes.”

In pursuing a master’s degree in cultural anthropology, the study of existing healthy cultures and looking at living cultures, Monika said she traveled to Morocco and became very interested in that style of cooking. “I like to take local ingredients and make Moroccan style meals with them,” she said. “Moroccan cooking is my personal favorite food to prepare.”

Understandably proud of his wife’s many accomplishments, Jeff says Monika speaks fluent French and Hungarian. “And the meals she prepares are spectacular,” he said, adding he has quite a list of favorites.

“If cooking for just the two of us I might prepare a simple antipasto plate with things like marinated artichokes and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and melon with some cheese,” she said. “Or we might stick a chicken on the rotisserie.”

The fine dining meals at Chestnut Street Inn are available seven days a week by reservation only, with only one seating served per evening. “No one reads the menu here, they know in advance what will be served,” Jeff said. “Sometimes they will tell us they want a certain type of food, like maybe Mediterranean or Italian and we take it from there, we plan a menu for them.”

An Italian menu would include such things as shrimp scampi, mixed greens with pear, gorgonzola and candied walnuts, ragu bolognese, and ricotta cheesecake with raspberry sauce. Or a recent French menu included brie on croute, spinach salad with goat cheese, toasted pistachios and dried cranberries, coq au vin with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus and chocolate souffles with creme anglaise.

Chestnut Street Inn serves extravagant four course candlelit dinners nightly. Monika decides on menus for her dinners two months in advance and a monthly menu is posted on their Web site, “We have some regular customers who call for reservations as soon as they see one of their favorite meals on the menu list,” Jeff said.

Having worked in the hospitality business for several years in both Las Vegas and California, Monika and Jeff have extensive experience in the food industry. “We were both dancers, Monika was in the ballet for 14 years and I was a professional dancer for 15 years, and at the same time we both worked in various restaurants,” Jeff said. “We knew we needed to retire from dancing eventually and that we wanted to be doing something with food service.”

Monika said she needed a creative outlet after dancing and found she had a knack for cooking.

The couple agreed, however, they didn’t want to have to hire  employees in their business —  they wanted to be able to do everything themselves so they  have divided up the chores. Monika takes care of the kitchen and bathrooms and Jeff handles everything else. “I do the linens, the ironing, and the vacuuming and Monika does the cooking and also takes care  of the computer responsibilities,” he said. “We’ve worked so long together that we communicate very well”

Sharing that he grew up going to different cultural restaurants every week, Jeff said Monika’s family is Hungarian and she had never had any experience with different ethnic foods before they met. “I took her to a Moroccan restaurant on our second date and she had never had it before.  She fell in love with it and it is now her favorite food to prepare,” Jeff said.

When guests come to Chestnut Street Inn, whether for a weekend getaway or for an evening meal, they can expect to be pampered and indulged.

“I like to educate people about food and we like to have fun with it,” Monika said. “It’s all about the ambiance. We give people a chance to breathe, to sit back and relax and enjoy a meal, not rush through it. When you come here for a meal, you relax.”

Jeff adds they never do a second seating during an evening, so no one is rushed. “We like to chat with people.” he said. “We like to explain the cultures of the food we serve. It is all about our cultural differences and we talk about some of these food similarities and differences  with our guests and it opens their eyes. Foods from around the world are really more similar than they are different.”

A typical chicken and rice dish, Jeff said, can be made into several ethnic dishes. “There is Spanish chicken and rice, burritos, paella and even egg rolls,” he said. “They are all adapted just a little differently with basically the same ingredients, just by using different spices and herbs.”

Monika adds, however, she does Asian cooking occasionally. “And that requires a whole other pantry of spices,” she laughs.

Monika says when she is  thinking about a meal she is “notorious” for making lists in the morning. “If I’m making creme brulee tonight and maybe again in two days, I will make them all at the same time, because they store really well,” she said, adding the creme brulee is probably the number one requested dessert she makes. “I’m constantly thinking and organizing. People are always amazed at our economy of space in the kitchen and how well we can work in such a small space.”

When planning a meal, Monika also says she generally tries to look at local ingredients. “We get produce from Sunflower Farms and we pay for a share of crops produced there,” she said. “We try to incorporate those seasonal things into ethnic foods and we take advantage of what is available locally at the market each day. We use all fresh ingredients. We buy and cook fresh every day.” Monika adds for a meal tonight, she cooks today.

Keeping staples on hand in her pantry is important to Monika. “I really use five main spices. I use lots of herbe de province and Hungarian paprika — I buy it by the pound,” she laughs.

Some of the fresh ingredients utilized in the kitchen at Chestnut Street Inn are grown in the garden on the premises. “We grow some vegetables and herbs and we use them in our cooking,” Monika said. “I use a ton of fresh basil from our garden and I make pesto with it.  We also grow thyme and sage and last year we grew some really good eggplant.” Monika adds Jeff does almost all the yard work and gardening.

Since she enjoys all aspects of cooking and creating, Monika especially likes to offer cooking classes whenever asked. “We don’t have any regularly planned classes, but when a group wants to have a class they just call and tell me what kind of class they want and I put it together,” she said.  “When we have a cooking class I always give people a list of locally available produce. We do a variety of cooking classes at several locations as well as here at the house.”

The classes lasting around two hours, are usually themed classes. “We did a holiday cooking class where I ‘deconstructed’ the classic green bean casserole by using homemade cream of mushroom soup and fresh mushrooms,” Monika said. “Then we did a turducken, a deboned turkey, duck and chicken pressed together. It was a variation of a traditional meal.”

As a self-taught chef Monika has studied many food cultures and customs. “If someone has a business client or maybe is entertaining a foreign dignitary, we can prepare meals they will enjoy, maybe a marinated skirt steak with a Spanish or Mexican style,” she said. “The challenge is fun.”

For one church youth group who were studying the movie “Chocolat,” Monika did an all chocolate menu including both sweet and savory dishes.

At another church group gathering of Harry Potter fans, she served a themed menu. “In the Harry Potter books they refer to certain dishes that really don’t exist, but are just made up names. I did some research and created recipes from the names of those dishes.”

Presentation is very important to both Monika and Jeff. “We don’t waste things like garnishes though,” Jeff said. “I would rather spend that money on better fish or meat. The food itself is the presentation.”

Monika adds they always try to serve meals that are pretty on the plate. “We always have color on the plate,” she said. “We offer large servings — we don’t want people to go away hungry.”

Although Monika says her creme brulee is “by far” the number one requested dessert, Jeff has some other dishes that are very popular. “She does a chocolate pot de creme that is wonderful and also poached pear with port sauce, chocolate souffle with creme anglaise, almond flour mocha torte, tiramisu, an Italian ricotta cheesecake and an apple streudel that is from a basic recipe from her grandmother.”

Monika says the creme brulee she makes is easy to do. “It is just a technique. There are four ingredients and I use one cup ramekins,” she said, adding she makes the delicacy a little thicker than most do so it has a creamy layer. “I’m careful my eggs don’t curdle. You don’t want to overcook or undercook the creme brulee — it is all about the timing.”

Jeff and Monika found Chestnut Street Inn for sale on the internet at just the right time in their lives. “We didn’t want to go to a big city, we wanted a rural setting where we could offer guests a one-of-a-kind eating experience,” he said, adding Sheffield is the perfect place for them with a unique setting and a wonderful quality of life.

“If I’d done simply ethnic foods, we could have gone anywhere, in any big city, but we needed a place where we could serve all different kinds of food,” Monika said. “We are so happy here.”

For reservations phone 1-800-537-1304, or e-mail

Jeff and Monika Sudakov share some of their favorite recipes.

Crispy butternut squash ravioli with sage butter sauce

Monika Sudakov

1 lg. butternut squash

3-4 cloves garlic

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

2 T. Herbes de Provence

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 t. paprika

1/4 C. + 4 T. olive oil

3 T. sour cream

1/2 C. grated parmesan

2 pkg. won ton skins

handful of torn fresh sage leaves

2-3 T. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by cutting both ends of the butternut squash off. Peel squash with a vegetable peeler and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds from each half. Cut squash into aprox. 1” pieces and place on a baking sheet along with the garlic cloves. Season with 4 T. olive oil, salt, pepper, herbes de provence, nutmeg and paprika. Toss well to coat all the squash and garlic and spread out in a single layer n the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for approx. 55 minutes or until the squash are cooked through and tender. Allow to cool completely. Place the squash and garlic in a food processor along with the sour cream and parmesan cheese and puree until smooth, adjusting seasoning as needed.

To assemble: place approx. 1 T. of filling in the center of a won ton, dip your finger in water and moisten all the edges of the won ton. Place another won ton on top of the first one, pressing the edges tightly together. The water will adhere the won tons to one another, but be sure there are no air bubbles in the seal or the won tons will burst when they cook. Place wontons on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap and sprayed with cooking spray. Don’t layer them on top of one another or they will stick. Continue filling won tons until all the filling is used up.

To cook the won tons: fill a pot with approx. 2 qts. water and bring to a boil with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Place approx. 7-8 raviolis in the boiling water and let them cook for approx. a minute and a half or until they rise to the top of the water, which means they are cooked. Do not put more than this in the water or they may stick to each other and rip apart. Place the raviolis on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Do not let them touch or they will stick together. Once all the raviolis are cooked, place 1/4 C. olive oil and 2-3 T. butter in a large saute pan. Once the butter has melted and begins to brown a bit, place raviolis in the pan. Cook the raviolis approx. 2 minutes per side or until they are golden and crispy. Continue cooking until all the raviolis have been browned, adding more olive oil and butter as needed. Once the raviolis are browned, add the chopped sage leaves to the pan and cook just a couple minutes to crisp them up. Serve the raviolis hot with the sage butter poured over them.

Prep time: approx. 45 min.

Cook time: 1 hour roasting and 30 min. pan searing raviolis

Yield: Approx. 30 raviolis

Homemade green been casserole

Monika Sudakov

Cooking spray

2 cans French cut green beans

2 cans wax beans

3 shallots, finely chopped

2-14 oz. pkg. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 T. olive oil

2 T. unsalted butter

pinch salt and pepper

1 t. herbes de provence

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 C. sherry

3 T. flour

1/4 to 1/2 C. milk

2 C. shredded asiago, gruyere or cheddar cheese

1/2 c. French fried onions

Grease a 13x9” pyrex baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium saute pan over med-high heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add shallots and saute until light golden brown, approx. 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, herbes de provence and nutmeg. Deglaze the pan with sherry and increase the temperature to high. Cook the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to caramelize. Add flour. Cook for a minute or two to toast the flour. Add the milk and cook an additional couple of minutes until the mixture thickens to a nice gravy-like consistency.

To assemble the casserole, combine the beans, cooked mushroom mix and 1-1/2 C. of the cheese and place in the pyrex dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for approx. 30 minutes. Remove foil and top with remaining cheese and fried onions. Return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the onions have toasted. Serve hot.

Yield: 8 servings