BRATTLEBORO >> At last year's Strolling of the Heifers, Andrzej Mikijaniec told Sen. Bernie Sanders he'd cook him pierogis forever if he took over as president.
While it doesn't appear that he will have to follow through on that promise, luckily for local residents, they can get pierogis at Mikijaniec food stand — Andrzej's Polish Kitchen — on Flat Street.
"I like to change people's ideas about food," he said.
As a chef in New York, Mikijaniec worked at the Russian Tea Room after being at the Garden City Hotel in Long Island and Veselka in the East Village. He graduated from the New York Restaurant School.
"I did a lot of catering," he said, adding that he provided food for events involving actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and former President Bill Clinton.
Mikijaniec originally started the food stand in May 2015. But in the winter, he took on a job as a chef at the Hermitage Club's Clubhouse at Haystack Mountain. He reopened the food stand again this May.
This winter, the plan is to remain open at least once a week.
"Maybe I'll bring blankets. That's how we do it in Poland," said Mikijaniec.
The business is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 6:30 p.m. On Fridays, Mikijaniec likes to stay open until at least 8 p.m. During Gallery Walk, more tables are set up with Polish music playing in the background.
Using as many local products as possible and bringing fresh vegetables from his own garden at his home in Brattleboro, Mikijaniec said he's also looking to partner with more local farmers. But the "authentic Polish" kielbasa comes from New York.
Mikijaniec's slowly building his clientele, he said, serving over 70 lunches and dinners on Fridays.
"I always sell out on Fridays and I'm enjoying it," he said. "I bring a love to cooking. It takes at least two days to cook whatever I have."
Between shopping and preparing, he keeps busy each week.
Customers are coming from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. A resident of Maine even had to check out the food.
"They heard I was marking pulled pork sandwiches," said Mikijaniec. "Customers are first and second generation Polish, German and Slav. They say I make it just like their families did."
He lived in Poland until he was 21 years old and learned about cooking at a bakery in the European country. His friends told him he was good at what he did so he went with it.
Mikijaniec said he hopes to open a Polish-style diner or deli with home-cooked foods in the next couple of years. He's going to Wroclaw, the town in Poland where he grew up, in October for two weeks to get ideas for food.
For now, he's adding cold soups and salads to the menu. And customers are always treated to Polish candies.
The longest meal takes five minutes to prepare, Mikijaniec said. The others take two to three minutes. Debit and credit cards are accepted at the food stand.
"Everything is made to go," said Mikijaniec. "No waiting. No waitresses. People with a 30-minute break can get lunch in five minutes."
When business is slow, he said, "I'm still here."
Mikijaniec plans on assisting with the annual Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving Dinner for the second year in a row. He has lived in town for 13 years.
"There's something I like about this town," he said.
For catering inquiries, Mikijaniec can be reached at 802-257-0277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.