(This story originally appeared in the May/June 2013 NL issue of Nebraska Life Magazine)

THAT GRUMPY GUY named Old Man Winter has been sent packing once again and now hope springs eternal for the good life. Let the grilling begin.

The sizzling symphony is here. So let the horns blow and the special sauces flow. To help our readers “steak” their claim on the barbecue season, we called upon a Nebraska icon to get things cooking.

Omaha Steaks is a red-meat shipping king, each year sending out more than 4 million specially packaged deliveries of steak and gourmet foods, which end up on plates as far away as Hawaii and Canada’s Newfoundland. But while Omaha Steaks is on the cutting edge of high-tech marketing strategies to reach red-meat lovers all over the map, this family-owned company stays grounded in Nebraska’s beefiest city with the same business values from five generations ago, when a father and son from Latvia stepped off a train with their butcher knives and a dream.

We’re pleased to share five personal recipes by Omaha Steaks’ renowned executive chef, Karl Marsh. For dessert, we’ll treat you to some of the rich flavors that stir together this classic Nebraska success story.

The Omaha Steaks brand has popped up on many TV talk shows, and movies like DodgeBall, Up in the Air and About Schmidt. The company also was featured in a 2011 episode of Celebrity Apprentice. Donald Trump’s show included a hairraising tale during one team’s infomercial presentation for Omaha Steaks.

“I will absolutely never forget Gary Busey’s long-winded story about flying kites and enjoying Omaha Steaks with your dad on Father’s Day,” said Todd Simon, Omaha Steaks Senior Vice President.

Although Busey’s approach seemed to be coming from Pluto, the quirky actor’s screwball pitch was a slice of family life, and family has always been the key ingredient to Omaha Steaks. Todd runs the family business along with his cousin, the company’s president, Bruce Simon. The 21st-century executives still carry on some of the old-school ways of their great-great-granddad, an immigrant butcher named J.J.

In 1898, J.J. Simon and his son, B.A., set sail from Latvia to flee religious persecution. They landed in New York and headed west on a train until they saw farmland in Omaha that reminded them of home in the city of Riga. The father and son toiled in Omaha meat markets until 1917, when they set up their own downtown shop at the corner of 17th and Douglas streets. The spot is now a parking garage, but nearly 100 years ago it was called Table Supply Meat Co.

It was Todd’s and Bruce’s grandfather Lester Simon who turned things up a notch in the 1940s, serving the company’s steaks on Union Pacific Railroad’s dining cars, and in 1952, he started shipping meat to customers in wax-lined cartons filled with dry ice. The most famous delivery came in 1961, when Nebraska Gov. Frank Morrison sent steaks from Table Supply to President John F. Kennedy in the White House.

The company moved into new headquarters in southwest Omaha in 1966 and changed the name to the instant classic, Omaha Steaks. A state-of-the-art production plant remains there, and the Simon cousins have picked up the steak knives to carry on the family tradition from Alan’s father, Bruce, and Todd’s father, Fred.

Todd’s favorite company story is when a customer called his father to complain that his Omaha Steaks treasures were lost because a power failure had shut down his freezer. “To his surprise, my dad sent him a complete replacement of all the Omaha Steaks products that he lost  – free of charge. Needless to say, we now have a customer for life.”

There are more stories to tell and many more steaks to prepare. Leading the way in product development and preparation is Marsh, a former executive chef at elite West Coast restaurants, who joined the company in 2003 and lives with his wife, Tricia, in her hometown of Omaha. Marsh travels about the country conducting Omaha Steaks cooking events with celebrities and famed chefs. He partners up his steaks with such fantastic flourishes as Italian truffles with an oil and balsamic sauce.

He offers a few steak tips for all the top chefs among Nebraska Life readers.

“Seasoning is very important, and you want the steak to be dry before seasoning,” Marsh said. “Pat it down with a paper towel, oil it with olive oil and use a seasoning blend to get more flavor and less salt. The biggest mistake people make preparing steak is cutting into it to see how done it is. You don’t want to pierce a steak until it has had a chance to rest or you lose some of the flavor.”

So readers, after sinking your teeth into another issue of our magazine, get ready to feast on the ultimate steak-out.

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