Greensburg-based Steel City Chimneys offers up tantalizing treats
The scent wafting from the Steel City Chimneys food truck may cause many a festivalgoer’s mouth to water.
The sight of the treats being prepared inside the truck — lengths of dough wrapped around a dowel, coated in sugar that caramelizes over a grill — may stop visitors in their tracks.
The operators of the Greensburg-based food truck make one item and one item only: chimney cakes.
Husband and wife Jason Kelly, 41, and Meredith Minkus, 39, corporate attorneys in Florida for nearly a decade, discovered chimney cakes on a dream trip to Eastern Europe about five years ago.
When the couple, who seldom ate bread, found themselves unable to resist the numerous Hungarian street vendors selling the hollow pastries, they knew the cakes were a winner.
While Kelly still practices law (and mans the chimney cake grill), Minkus, who is half-Hungarian, was ready for a change and left behind the legal world.
They joke that they went from “litigating to leavening,” Minkus says.
And their pastries are popping up at regional festivals, farmers’ markets, office parties and outdoor wedding receptions.
With sweet toppings — like the traditional walnut, cinnamon, sugar — “Americanized” flavors, like Oreo or birthday cake, or savory selections, like asiago or bacon, the cakes can tempt most taste buds.
Sometimes Minkus and Kelly partner with other food purveyors, leading to concoctions like fried chicken or ice cream chimneys.
“Obviously, it’s not a health food,” Minkus says, laughing.
And that name?
When the dough comes off the dowel, steam escapes, Minkus says.
A bit like smoke coming out of a, well, chimney.
The crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside bread originated in Eastern Europe, where they purchased their dowels and grill (which has a rotisserie), and returned to learn how to make the spiral treats.
Minkus, originally from Sutersville, and Kelly decided to pull up stakes and move to Western Pennsylvania, where they’ve been letting off steam, so to speak, since launching their business in November.
“A large part of last year, we were making chimney cakes at our home,” she says. “We are the only ones (making chimney cakes) in Western Pennsylvania, as far as we know. We did a lot of searching before deciding to bring the product here.”
They’ve participated as vendors at Greensburg’s Summer Sounds, Ligonier Country Market, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, University of Pittsburgh’s EuroFest, food truck round-ups and Irwin’s recent Ethnic Festival and Spring Craft Show.
The cakes are assembled on-site, Minkus says, from the yeast dough, which must rise, to hand rolling and grilling.
People who have traveled to Eastern Europe, or are of certain ethnic heritages, Minkus says, are familiar with the pastries.
Others follow their noses to the food truck and are intrigued by the cakes’ name and appearance.
“A lot of times we hear, ‘What is that?’,” she says.