Some people feel as though they were born to work in a certain profession.
Steve Ozbolt has photographic proof.
“My mom has pictures of me playing with pots and pans when I was less than a year old,” said Ozbolt, the owner of Emerald City Catering, a business he opened last year. “I’ve always loved food. I really feel like I was meant to do this.”
Ozbolt goes by the nickname “Oz,” a moniker he picked up in first grade and one that — with help from his favorite movie — inspired the name of his business.
“The landlord asked me what I was going to call it and I just said, ‘Emerald City.’ The official starting date was Aug. 23, which was the opening date for the movie.”
Though he spent close to two decades as a fire protection service technician and manager, Ozbolt always remained interested in food.
“I started out as a kid working at McDonald’s, like everybody does,” he said. “I also worked at Irene’s catering and I spent time cooking at St. Luke’s Hospital.
“I really enjoyed that. In the early to mid-90s, I started doing a little catering work on my own and it went pretty well. I just got to a point where it was taking a lot of my time — especially in the middle of the week — and I decided to shut that down.
“Last year, I decided it was time to follow my dream.”
The search for a venue didn’t take long. Ozbolt attended church and grade school at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 3100 S. 41st St. The facility, which is located across the street from his mother’s house, had fully stocked kitchen that was unused.
“It’s a perfect situation,” he said. “On Sunday, I sell hot ham and rolls. I figured that I had a built-in audience, so I just closed the doors, opened the vents and let the smell waft up into the church. After a while, I started doing beef, too, because I was getting tired of ham. That helps pay the rent. ”
Though he originally envisioned Emerald City as “dinner to your door” operation and still offers that service, Ozbolt has begun to focus on his passion: barbecue.
“Barbecue is my favorite thing to do,” he said. “I did a homemade sauce and everyone love it. They said, ‘You should market that sauce.’ So, I started to make batches of it and called it ‘Big Boss Sauce,’ because a guy that used to work for me called me ‘Boss.’ I used that name and put my picture on the bottle and got things started.”
In addition to selling sauce through his Web site and catering operation, Ozbolt has reached a deal with Groppi Market and is talking with other grocers.
“I’ve got a regular flavor and a bold,” he said. “And, I’ll be coming out with a wing sauce soon, so people can buy it in a three-pack.”
Emerald City offers individual “dinner to your door” options for one to four people, with an array of entree offerings ($8.79 per serving) that includes cheese and spinach stuffed ravioli, eggplant and mushroom casserole, beef pepper steak, Prosciutto wrapped cheese stuffed chicken breasts and his signature ribs, which cost $9.99 for a half-rack and $17.99 for a full rack. There are also soups, side dishes and dessert options.
Dinners are available for pickup or for delivery, with fees dependent on location.
“One of the things that’s really big for us is that customers ask us to customize menus for their dietary restrictions,” Ozbolt said. “I had a guy who is diabetic call the other day and he ordered 10 meals.
“We have a template to work with, but we can change ingredients to help people with allergies or other restrictions.”
Ozbolt also does corporate events, weddings, graduation parties and specializes in tailgate parties and picnics. This summer, he’ll unveil the Big Boss Grill, a portable barbecue operation that he can take on site.
“That’s my favorite thing to do,” he said. “A like to do a whole pig for 100 people and do some Big Boss bratwurst. I just like to come in and take care of everything so people can have a good time and enjoy good food.”
Ozbolt also is available for anniversary parties and he’s celebrating one himself today.
“(May 8) marks one year to the day since I started doing this full-time,” he said. “I spent all those years training people in fire safety and I’m still dealing with fire. Now, I’m in front of the grill.”
By Drew Olson
Special to OnMilwaukee.com