A sixth grader at Leechburg Area High School is her own sauce boss.
Emilee Kostyak, 11, from Leechburg, is the founder and CEO of D&D BBQ.
At 5, Emilee tasted her father’s homemade barbecue sauce and quickly told him she didn’t like it.
“I was a little sassy and said, ‘Go do yours,’” said Tim Kostyak, Emilee’s father and CFO of D&D BBQ.
Emilee took his advice to heart and started experimenting with different ingredients.
She eventually created her own unique barbecue sauce and started the business with her father at the age of 6.
“She did. The next thing I knew was that she had opened up her culinary world,” said Kostyak, of Harrison City.
Emilee said his love of cooking started very early.
“I remember being little baking cookies and almost burning my mom, so the next day she signed me up for cooking classes,” Emilee said.
Emilee has created three signature barbecue flavors: Devils Kiss, Smoky Spicy Garlic and Emilee’s Potion.
They sell for $ 8 a liter.
She said her not-so-secret ingredient is Dr Pepper.
“I use two cups per set. It was my favorite drink when I was little, ”she said.
The sugar in Dr. Pepper helps a good caramelization process and gives the ribs and breast a nice crust, Tim said.
The best-selling flavor is Emilee’s Potion, the mildest of sauces. Customers wanting more oomph look for Devils Kiss, described as very spicy.
“It feels good every time someone buys gravy,” Emilee said. “I feel so excited! “
D&D sells about 20 liters a week, and Emilee usually cooks in her father’s kitchen after school on Wednesdays.
“The onions are the hardest part. They understand me, ”Emilee said of the cooking process.
The father / daughter duo said the company increased production when Emilee was 8 years old.
She formed an LLC last December and set a goal of growing her brand.
“Now we see that’s actually a thing. It’s going to take off, ”said Emilee’s mother-in-law Leanne Kostyak, who helps with quality assurance.
Plans are underway to transform the basement of his father’s house into a professional grade production kitchen / facility.
D&D operates out of a licensed Pennsylvania kitchen in Harrison City, and Emilee divides her time equally between her mother’s residence in Leechburg and her father’s home in Harrison City.
His house sauces are available by ordering on the D&D BBQ Facebook page and are sold at Allusion Brewing Co. in Vandergrift.
Allusion Brewing Co. uses Emilee’s Potion as the exclusive sauce for its nachos.
Robert Buchanan, co-owner of Allusion Brewing, said his customers frequently inquire about the type of sauce used in nachos and always ask for “more sauce.”
“We tell them Emilee’s story, and it usually ends with a little gravy back home,” Buchanan said.
D&D is used in the chicken wings served at Bob’s Place in Jamestown. The Moonlight Inn in Vandergrift featured Emilee’s sauce as a guest sauce on its menu.
Emilee’s mother Caylee Hill said her daughter’s passion for cooking has truly blossomed.
“We love to hear about the growth of his business. Emilee is fierce, strong and fiery, ”Hill said. “She cannot be held back because her passion burns more than her fears.”
Emilee said building the business is a goal.
“I want to be at the grocery store someday and see my sauces out there on the shelf,” Emilee said.
When Emilee is not in the kitchen, she enjoys playing Harry Potter Lego, softball and paint.
Emilee said she was saving her profits (she earns $ 2 for every liter sold) for a special trip.
“I would like to go to Mexico or Florida,” she says.