“I was one of those people who know at 4 years old what I wanted to do,” Gina Omalanz said.
Omalanz is the owner and founder of Essence of Thymes Catering. She always loved food and thought she would one day open her own restaurant. That is, until she worked with corporate training for restaurants helping with openings.
“It was chaotic and new and exciting, and I loved that,” she said.
Soon after this kindling of an idea formed in her head, one of her mother’s co-workers asked her to cater an event. Then, a friend asked her to cater a wedding for 290 people. And soon that idea grew into a burning flame she couldn’t put out.
And in 2003, Essence of Thymes was founded.
“Those events went so successfully so I started pursuing this and found a kitchen and started working my way through,” Omalanz said.
She started small, originally planning to build onto her property to run the business from home.
“We went through some legalities when I was told the well was too close to my home for a commercial business,” Omalanz said. “So that day I went out and found this place.”
Located at 817 Bay St., Essence of Thymes has a full kitchen and a small office area. Omalanz is proud that the business has led in the direction where it is completely run by women.
“I have strong, powerful women working for me,” she said.
Hope Carpenter and Jessica Knutelsky partner with Omalanz to plan and run events. And while their business is now in such demand that it remains open seven days a week, it needed a lot of “love” to get it there, Omalanz said.
“There was no running water and the walls needed to be re-sheet rocked,” she said. “My dad did most of it for me. He ended up passing away three years later so I feel closer to him in here because he was a huge part of getting the kitchen for me.”
Although 80 percent of their business comes from weddings, the business has grown tremendously. They provide food and service for corporate events and lunches, private parties and galas, as well as for weddings.
What Omalanz and her team have learned in recent years is how most people want a full-service catering company.
From food to bartending, last-minute tent rentals to clean-up at the end of the night, Essence of Thymes does it all, rain, shine, and even during power outages.
During one event last year, a vicious storm knocked out the venue’s power. A tree blocked the road they needed to use to get there, so police officer escorted them to the premises and they were able to set up without a hitch.
“It never stops, the kitchen stays open,” Omalanz said.
For any event, they offer different menu and serving options. Clients can choose if they want their guests to be served buffet style, plated meals or family-style meals where large portions are designated to each table to pass around.
“[Family style] gives them that Thanksgiving feeling,” Omalanz said.
“We bring enough food for the group of eight, and they pass it all around. It encourages them to talk and gives that warm feeling.”
After the style is selected, they have different sample menus to choose from. However, they encourage clients to tinker and make each meal their own.
“We love doing custom menus,” Omalanz said. “It makes the meal special to their day.”
Their most popular meals are grilled salmon and marinated flank steak. They use fresh wild salmon, sockeye or king depending on the season, and they marinate their flank steak for five days.
Although that requires planning ahead, Omalanz said every event is different, and she likes it that way.
“It’s exciting because there is no ‘typical,’” she said.
Because they advertise restaurant-quality food, everything is finalized on site, if not minutes before they leave the kitchen. Often times, they’ll even grill on site to make things as fresh as possible.
Certain venues in the area work exclusively with Omalanz and her team, while others recommend them.
“It gives us a great relationship with the community,” she said.
“It allows us to sort of partner up with them, and you get to meet new people at every event.”
Omalanz said her favorite thing is seeing people’s faces as they taste the food.
“I think food definitely brings greatness to an event,” she said.
“It’s what people remember a lot of the time, what food they ate and whether it was good. It’s so rewarding when you hear it’s the best food they ever had.”
Essence of Thymes can be found at 817 Bay St. And while they love when people communicate by phone, Omalanz said email is the easiest way to communicate with clients with everyone’s busy schedules.