The mind behind Mind of a (Former) Chef, Zachary Resnick, was born and raised in Ottawa and studied culinary management at Algonquin College. He worked at a number of prominent Ottawa restaurants, including Signatures at Le Cordon Bleu, was opening sous chef at Fauna and chef de cuisine at Bar Laurel, then took a job as restaurant chef for the Chateau Laurier, running all their restaurant and in-room dining. That lasted a year and a half, then he headed back to Fauna. But even before the pandemic hit, he realized it was time for an even bigger change.
“It’s a business where you gotta be all in it. You can only be a cook so long before transforming yourself into a chef and opening your own place. I knew I didn’t want the financial risk and time sink of opening my own restaurant. I was thinking: What else can I do? Maybe there’s a way to transition. The blog is the first step.”
Resnick says he started the blog about three times before finding the voice and approach he really wanted it to have.
“The first one came out as a restaurant review site and I was like, that’s not what I want. I didn’t want it to be super polished at the expense of sounding like an actual person. I wanted to be authentic. I wanted it to sound like me.”
He draws inspiration from people like the late Anthony Bourdain, whose no-nonsense approach to the restaurant business, food, and travel he admires.
“I think sometimes, how would he write about this? His frankness and openness about how it wasn’t always perfect but it was a business he loved. That’s something I want to convey. Even if it’s not my career any more, I have nothing but love and respect for it.”
I didn’t want it to be super polished at the expense of sounding like an actual person. I wanted to be authentic. I wanted it to sound like me.”
A recent post on making the perfect BLT sandwich is a great example of Resnick’s unique voice. “Remember, K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, sandwich” made me snicker out loud. He takes a fairly commonplace food and shows the reader how to elevate it to restaurant quality by choosing great ingredients and prepping them with care and attention (hint: proper seasoning and careful slicing).
Resnick was inspired to begin blogging after completing an intensive online course in Food and Travel Writing through the University of British Columbia. He calls the blog a “launching pad” to what he hopes will be the next phase of his career.
“Having been a pro chef for so long, I read other blogs and it’s flashy recipe after flashy recipe. A lot of them teach you how to cook as though you are cooking in a restaurant. A lot of actual restaurant chefs, that’s not how they cook at home. You get all the fancy stuff, you spend a day crafting this one dish. You’ll impress your guests, but it’s not conducive to your life, your time. When we get home we don’t have hours and days, but we still want to make something awesome.”
Resnick says his approach is essentially how to be a lazy but effective home cook, because “that’s honestly how we cook on our days off.” In other words: Try not to make too much of a mess and always use just one pan if at all possible, as with his recent take on the classic, often-forgotten chicken cacciatore.
He’s hoping to keep growing the blog’s audience in the coming months, perhaps adding some podcast elements. His goal is to attract a wide readership that includes fellow industry professionals, but also home cooks looking for new ideas and inspiration. I say check it out because it’s fun, it’s pretty to look at, and the recipes are accessible and well-written. Have a snack handy, though—it’ll make you hungry.