Some restaurant menus state that good food takes time, but that’s not the case with pizzas served from the Red Ember food truck. They are made and baked within minutes, and taste delicious.
Experienced chef Steffen Zinn, 32, of Starbuck recently started taking his handmade pizzas to hungry customers using his custom-built Red Ember food truck.
Larger than an ordinary food truck, Zinn spent last winter working on the Freightliner body with a shipping container rear section. He then installed a wood-fired oven which can also run on propane.
A large window set into the side of the truck allows customers to see into the mobile kitchen, and watch their pizzas sliding in and out of the oven. The serving window is tucked under the second level, and pizza choices are advertised on an electronic display screen.
"We basically have a mini-kitchen in there," Zinn said. A pizza bakes in less than two minutes in the oven, which can reach 570F.
Zinn and his staff make each pizza to order, so they are served fresh and hot, straight from the oven.
While no local food trucks look like his Red Ember, he said he modelled his on one operating in San Francisco, Calif.
Being one-of-a-kind presented a few challenges in terms of having the truck certified. Zinn said, at one point, he feared that his $100,000 investment might not have the chance to pay off, though the truck eventually passed inspection.
Zinn is selling his 10-inch pizzas at St. Norbert Farmers’ Market and the Osborne Village market, as well as at locations in downtown Winnipeg.
His pizza crust begins with organic flour from Prairie Flour Mills in Elie. He bought 1,000 pounds of local tomatoes last year to make the pizza sauce he’s now spreading on his crusts.
"Our focus is on using organic, locally-grown ingredients," he said. To this end, he is growing his own San Marzano tomatoes destined for pizza sauce. This variety of plum tomato is considered by some to be the best for pasta sauce.
Toppings include made-in-Manitoba turkey sausage, free-range Berkshire pork from pigs raised by a family member, Manitoba cheese and locally-grown vegetables.
"We’ll have different specials throughout the summer," Zinn said, depending on which fresh vegetables are readily available.
Zinn was executive chef at Pine Ridge Golf Club when he decided last year to go into business for himself. He grew up on a farm near Springstein, and he said most of his family members run their own businesses.
While this first year is a learning process, Zinn expects to keep Red Ember on the road into the late fall.