Zena Krakowshy has the soul of an artist, which has been expressed in a number of ways throughout her life. The daughter of a Renaissance man and a very talented mother, she developed many creative skills at a young age, including sewing and cooking.
“My fondest memory is set in the family gatherings in our home. We’d all be around the table, lifting our glasses, and my parents would exchange this wonderful look of love. That moment connected the love of food with family. It is very deep in me.”
After attending the Academy of Art and the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco and the East Bay, a love of skiing prompted her to move to the High Sierras. She married and the two of them opened the Comstock Creamery Ice Cream Shop at the Ponderosa Ranch (of television’s “Bonanza” fame).
An opportunity in downtown Truckee was too hard to resist. Truckee’s heyday during the 1960 Winter Olympics was long past, and the husband and wife team were able to obtain a vacant space in a classic historic block. Barnwood from barn tear-downs covered the walls, Zena made lace curtains and even handmade cloth napkins, ; brass chandeliers were hung from the ceiling, Zena arranged flowers for every table in vintage vases. All together it created a beautiful Western ambiance at O’B’s Board. It was Zena’s food, however, that soon had the restaurant drawing capacity crowds.
Soon, another project drew Zena: a broken-down 1873 Queen Anne-Eastlake mansion, called the White House. She completely rehabilitated the building, returning it to its Victorian splendor. Shortly after opening as an antiques shop and fine dining establishment, her work was honored by the building’s being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Zena’s menu included specialties such as Beef Wellington, the freshest seafood and produce available and her heartwarming Chicken Pot Pie. On the enclosed front porch she installed a copper-and-brass Italian espresso machine, the first in the area, producing the best lattes and cappuccinos ‘West of the Mississippi.” The desserts were decadent, artistic and delicious. The wine list was excellent.
For many years, Zena was encouraged to bottle her Spicy Almond-Sesame Sauce (the origin of “SASS”) that guests enjoyed in her restaurants. “I always gave my sauces away, but when people started coming back repeatedly for refills, I realized there would be a market for selling them.”
After many successful ventures, she eventually transitioned out of the restaurant and catering business into the gourmet food production business, and moved to Santa Cruz. Her first big break came when the owner of the New Leaf Community Markets discovered Zena's SASS.
The evolution of the products to gluten-free and made with agave instead of sugar (which lowers the glycemic index), answers many people’s health concerns, particularly those in the Celiac and diabetic communities. “The changes were made by ‘popular demand’. People asked, and I listened.”
Once again, Zena listens...and because of what folks have said for years, Zena calls her SASS “the Everything Sauce” and encourages people to “put a little SASS in your life!”