Skillet Casting its Culinary Magic

From the Skillet website: Sometime in 2012, Isaac Sandoval was challenged to design and build the world’s largest cast iron skillet. The skillet itself didn’t break any world records but people loved the unique menus and crowd-pleasers cooked in the giant skillet. Thus, began the journey into food and pure wonderment of all things culinary. Isaac and Shawna set up shop in Vegas (NM) as a food truck, and two years ago went full brick and mortar in a historic building downtown. Skillet today is an immersive art, food, and drink experience.

How did they navigate the restrictions imposed by COVID-19? Below are Shawna’s responses to questions about the virus and its impact.

Artfully designed
The foodie entrepreneurs have not been idle during their down time. The Zen pool and new artwork are just some of the additions to the patio. That’s Shawna in the background.

“We were forced to close our doors March 15,” Shawna said. “Ourselves and our employees all went on unemployment directly after. Although the government left opportunity for restaurants to serve takeout, we made the decision that our efforts were best placed elsewhere.”

The fan-favorite foodie-friendly restaurant was closed for two and one-half months, reopening on June 1.

Shawna said the Skillet is reopened at 50 percent capacity because of mandates from health officials. “Our business hours are basically the same as before. We decided to cut our late-night menu for the time being, which so far gets us home earlier on the weekends.”

Looking to the future early on in the shutdown, the Sandovals set about making changes designed to add and enhance seating, and expand food options.

“We expanded our patio seating during the quarantine knowing that outdoor dining is considered substantially safer than indoor dining. Skillet has a large outdoor patio and our outdoor occupancy at 50 percent is 100 people. With the recent beautiful weather, Pizza anyonewe’ve been serving more customers outside, which was made possible because of the expansion. Our order-at-the-counter service is actually conducive to the “contactless” approach. We eliminated all duplicate menus and have just one menu for customers to see without touching, and our servers still bring all food and beverage to the customer. We have security staff for busy nights who remind people to sign our book at the door for the required contact tracing. Recently we’ve implemented digital temperature readings for all customers entering the restaurant. Employees that are in direct contact with the public are required to wear masks at all times.”

Like many businesses, the Skillet has taken advantage of stimulus programs geared toward small businesses.

“Through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), we are able to rehire and pay all our employees who went on unemployment for the quarantine. The grant portion of the loan will assist with our payroll while the business is getting back on its feet. This is particularly beneficial for restaurants such as ours as we employ around 20 people, a significant proportion of our operational costs.”

Operations day-to-day requires attention to detail and a willingness to work toward specific goals. Shawna and Isaac want to return to – and continue – the ambiance and atmosphere the Skillet has become known for. The young entrepreneurs are equally concerned about their business friends and neighbors.

Art Installation“In spite of uncertain times, we fully intend to provide the same fun and safe environment as we always have,” Shawna said.

“Please continue to spend money at local businesses in our community; our friends and neighbors have been more than gracious and we need to do everything in our power to make sure Las Vegas continues to thrive.”

Isaac and Shawna aren’t worried about the future so much as ready for new challenges. “As a relatively new business we are already accustomed to constantly evolving and changing things in our business per the market and trends. The COVID restrictions are just another hurdle to jump for us, although this is a difficult time for everyone, our newness works to our advantage.

“It’s one day at a time for now,” Shawna said. “This will most certainly change us and all restaurants in small ways forever, however, I remain optimistic with regards to the outcome.”

For more information about the Skillet, go to

Courtesy Photos: The Skillet

NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email for more information.


Sheer Gumption and Making it Work

Amanda Medina, baking up a business…

It takes unique talent and passion to create something people like to look at that also satisfies a yearning for a delicious treat to cap off special occasions. Amanda Medina of SugarBomb Bake Shoppe nails it every time. Her Facebook reviews are numerous and enthusiastic.

  • She always does an amazing job! My graduation cake was perfect and tasted so good! AE
  • Absolutely love SugarBomb. Everything that I have ever ordered has exceeded my expectations. Wouldn’t order from anywhere else. LT
  • SugarBomb is the BOMB! I’ve never been disappointed! Always been satisfied! FP


Baker Amanda Medina
Amanda Medina

This culinary entrepreneur defines what it means to create a business from nothing and make it into a stellar success.

ORP: Briefly talk about why you started SugarBomb Bake Shoppe.
SugarBomb was started out of combination of curiosity, passion for the craft and the desire to create something my way, from the ground up. Throughout my childhood, my mom owned her own flower shop, The Awesome Blossom, and it really resonated with me. I saw the struggles of owning your own small business, but it was the successes that really made the impression. I wanted to be my own boss and create something that was a representation of me. Baking has always been a hobby of mine, so it seemed a natural fit. It was a craft that I could hone and really make my own.

ORP: How did you become interested in baking?
It started in high school. I’d taken a few culinary arts classes and fell in love with it. It was also at that time that cupcakeries were trendy and cake-related TV shows were becoming popular. I would make cakes from mixes and try to decorate them with fondant to replicate what I’d see on those shows.

A cake for the bookish

ORP: You started out as a home-based operation. What are the challenges to doing that?
I think having a home based business has a bit of a negative connotation. People are a little more wary because they can’t just come in and browse. I feel like I’ve really had to prove myself and my product. I’ve definitely earned every one of my customers!

ORP: What is the biggest challenge you faced in the beginning and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in the beginning was getting the word out there in ways that would be beneficial to the business, but also fiscally responsible for me. I came into this very naive. That may have been a blessing in disguise because the things I did then were done out of sheer gumption and hunger to make it work. From day one I had the desire to succeed at this. Everyday, every cake I make, I still strive to be better, learn more about my craft and to improve. I think having that mindset has helped me to overcome a lot of the struggles involved in having a home-based business.

ORP: What gives you the greatest joy as a professional baker?
The reactions, for sure! Nothing compares to seeing a bride and groom see their cake for the first time or a three-year-old excitedly shrieking about their cake. And as much as I love the initial visual reactions, I love the texts or calls that often come later telling me how it tasted “…even better than it looked,” even more! Those make all the sleepless nights and hours of work more than worth it!

The Wild One
The Wild One

ORP: What is the most important trait for someone who wants to be a culinary entrepreneur?
A bit of stubbornness. There are going to be so many hurdles to overcome that you have to be a little stubborn. You have to be willing to stick to your guns, believe wholeheartedly in your product and be willing to sacrifice to make it work. Also, I think there’s a balance of being confident in your product and having the humility to always want to learn more.

ORP: You are now the kitchen manager at La Cocina Commercial Kitchen at Luna Community College. Talk about that and what it means to you to have access to a commercial kitchen for your business.
A commercial kitchen is a game changer! Right now, I am only allowed to sell direct to consumers. Producing in the commercial kitchen would enable me to wholesale (my products) and potentially get my items in restaurants or even grocery stores. It completely broadens the market and allows for faster and more efficient production. La Cocina Commercial Kitchen is a great resource for up and coming, and established business owners in our community. I definitely have plans to utilize it to grow SugarBomb.

ORP: You are also teaching a baking basics class at Luna Community College this fall. What prompted you to do that and what are you most looking forward to as an instructor?
Initially, I wanted to teach the class as a challenge for myself. I haven’t always been super comfortable with public speaking so I thought it would help me break that. Talking about baking and the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way comes natural so it’s been nice to be able to share that with a group of people who are equally interested in baking. There’s such a range of students in the class, all the way from beginners to people who already work as professional bakers. I tell my class all the time that we are all learning new things from each other. It’s the only the third week but it’s been such an enriching experience already.

ORP: Any advice for beginning culinary entrepreneurs?
Go for it! Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, if you have a passion, go for it. Put your heart and soul into it and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are some amazing people in the food industry here in Las Vegas that are willing to share their expertise. SugarBomb is a custom cake Shoppe. I strive to make everything from flavor to decor completely custom and one of a kind.

SugarBomb ontact information:
Phone: 505.429.4581

Cake photos (Books and Wild One) courtesy of Amanda Medina, SugarBomb Bake Shoppe