Sconni’s new chef packs a Texas barbecue punch

Will Fleischman of Sconni's


Will Fleischman of Sconni’s

Will Fleischman, Sconni’s new executive chef

Will Fleischman has had a fascination with cooking and the culinary arts since a young age. He remembers watching cooking shows on a little black and white TV, fascinated with the various creations while watching shows like Julia Child’s or The Frugal Gourmet. At 11 years old he made his first dish: a white grape chicken stir fry, for which he had to learn that white grapes just mean green grapes. 

But despite his love of cooking, Fleischman didn’t pursue the culinary arts professionally until much later in life, instead entering a career in teaching and academia, and briefly in the oil business. 

It wasn’t until about ten years ago that Fleischman moved to Dallas, entered culinary school and not only entered the Texas BBQ scene, but ultimately wrote the book on it. Literally. Fleischman is the author of Smoking Meat, has appeared on TV shows and has been offered TV shows of his own, and has cooked at celebrity’s parties. He once unknowingly chatted BBQ with Paris Hilton at a party in Aspen, and only learned later who it was. 

And today the Wausau area native is back in Wausau and is the executive chef of Sconni’s Alehouse and Eatery

How did Fleischman end up back in Wausau? When the pandemic hit the country, Dallas closed but then reopened shortly thereafter to 25% capacity for bars and restaurants. Most businesses took that as an invitation to go all out and few of them followed the restrictions, Fleischman says. As a result, COVID-19 cases in Dallas spiked to frightening levels. 

So Fleischman decided to come back to Wisconsin for a while, and he told City Pages he’s been impressed with how the area has grown since he’s returned, especially with food. Red Eye Brewing Co. blew him away, as did all the local farmers and local food crafters in the county. “As a culinarist it was exciting to see,” Fleischman told City Pages. 

Fleischman, who graduated D.C. Everest in 1989 before attending UW Madison, originally got a masters degree and ended up teaching at D.C. Everest and Wausau West, as well as in college for a while. He also ran the local Big Brothers, Big Sisters for a time. That he’d be the executive chef at Sconni’s never would have occurred to him. 

But meeting owner Ben Swanson and his silent partner left a good impression about the vision for Sconni’s, and something on the restaurant’s website appealed to him. “Bringing the best of Wisconsin to the guest,” Fleischman says. “I thought man, that sounds great.” 

Swanson told City Pages that Fleischman’s daughter works at Sconni’s, and after they talked about shared interest and vision it seemed obvious that the restaurant and Fleischman would be a good fit. He started July 13. “With Will in the mix, we’re really excited to start incorporating some smoke and barbecue into our repertoire at Sconni’s,” Swanson says. “We’ll also continue to offer the area some interesting dining options in addition to our customers’ usual favorites.” 

Of course, Fleischman plans to tweak even the standard menus, and he wants to focus on bringing more Wisconsin to the menu, with his own twist. He noticed the menu doesn’t have a brat on it; but his will be a gouda-stuffed brat with a bun from Kreger’s Bakery and Deli, and a homemade mustard. Fleischman says he plans to roll out changes slowly and maintain customer favorites. 

The owners of Sconni’s are big fans of smoked meats, and good thing; they hired the man who learned his art in Texas, and literally wrote the book on the topic.