Sergeant Pepper: Department of Public Safety officer spices up campus with homemade foods

Allen Chiu | Design Editor

Officer Ryan Zarnowski of the Department of Public Safety holds two of his spicy products; a jar of stuffed peppers and a jar of spiced pickles.

Drew Davis was getting a haircut at a Small Road apartment when Department of Public Safety Officer Ryan Zarnowski put a jar of pickles and peppers in front of him and asked him to eat one.

“When I tried them I was like, ‘Damn, this is good,’” said Davis, a sophomore political science major. “I didn’t know Officer Zarnowski could do this. I thought he was just your ordinary DPS officer.”

Dressed from head to toe in a navy blue uniform, Zarnowski may appear intimidating due to his height, his upper body strength and the power associated with wearing a badge.

But under the uniform, Zarnowski is a gentle giant. A graduate of the State University of New York atOswegowith a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Zarnowski enjoys fishing, hunting, the Green Bay Packers and spending time with his wife and two young daughters.

Five years ago, he started preparing pickles and peppers, a trend among his friends at the time. It joined the ranks of his other hobbies.

“I have friends and neighbors I had grown up with who had watched me grow up and had kids the same age,” Zarnowski said. “They did it. I decided I wanted to do it myself and give it a try.”

His process begins by purchasing jars, jalapenos and cucumbers by the bushels from Ontario Orchards in Oswego, N.Y. He cleans the cucumbers and mixes in the vinegar and spices. The peppers are stuffed with Genoa salami and provolone cheese, a process that has to be done by hand.

As time passed and his love grew, he wanted to make his hobby a legitimate company. He took an extra step by consulting with people on campus who have strong legal and business backgrounds.

“I’ve talked to people at the Whitman School of Management to gain education on how to make it grow,” Zarnowski said. “I’ve also utilized the law school for the legal things, to get a nondisclosure form drawn up for the recipes and to trademark my emblem.”

With that, he founded Zarbellatyn’s, which derives from the first three letters of his last name and the end of his daughters’ names: 4-year-old Isabella and 1-year-old Paityn. He operates Zarbellatyn’s with the help of his mother, Judy DiMarco; his wife, Amy; and his friend, James Masclee.

While working for DPS, Zarnowski advertises his products to those with whom he works. He said he won’t just share them with anybody.

“I’m taking this very, very slow just because of financial reasons,” he said. “I don’t have the finances to buy a big warehouse and hire a bunch of employees.”

Zarnowski estimates he spent more than $700 in materials last year to make 16 cases of product. Each case had 12 jars — six jars of pickles and six jars of peppers.

This year, he made eight cases of each product. It took Zarnowski four days.

He says communicating and building a relationship with the students can show that officers aren’t always out to discipline them, and conversing with them over pickles and peppers could potentially benefit his company.

“I also do it from a community-policing standpoint,” he said. “I want to get to know (students), to talk to you guys. I’m not just the mean guy with the badge trying to bust you guys. It has worked so far.”

Like Davis, the political science major, sophomore Jeremy Blatt has also tasted the products.

“It was very intriguing that a DPS officer is capable of doing that,” Blatt said. “You could never guess when you meet the man that he has his own business. It was very impressive.”

Blatt was impressed enough with the product that he would be willing to support him.

“I told him, as soon as I tried them, that I’d be willing to buy a couple of jars,” he said. “They’re that good.”

Sophomore Ben Hui has food and cooking in his blood. Whether he is in hisSharon,Mass., kitchen or his South Campus kitchen, he is an avid cook. His mother owns a Chinese restaurant in his hometown, and in his spare time he enjoys watching the Food Network.

Hui was fascinated to learn that this was a part of Zarnowski’s life off the job.

“I was pretty surprised,” Hui said. “But I was really surprised that he had such a unique hobby since you don’t really see canning as a hobby anymore.”

Hui noted the distinction between Zarnowski’s pickles and the ones found elsewhere. He could tell by the taste that Zarnowski made these himself and put the time and attention into his product to make it as flavorful as it was.

“When I first had it, it was distinctly not any deli pickle you get,” he said. “It wasn’t flimsy or bland. It clearly didn’t come out of a jar from a supermarket. It tasted homemade.”

Although the business has its flaws financially and it continues to grow, Zarnowski envisions this playing a more significant role in his life once he decides to call it quits from DPS.

All of these things bring a smile to his face. Even more, he finds pride in his work when he shares his product with others.

“When I get that visual expression on people trying them, or the words out of their mouth, ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten, I could eat the whole jar in one sitting,’ it puts a real smile on your face,” Zarnowski said. “It makes you feel good knowing that you did a good job and you put out a good product. That’s what I try and do.”


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