If you don’t know the one and only Zane Caplansky from visiting him at Caplansky’s Deli on College Street or his Thunderin’ Thelma deli truck, you definitely recognize him from his appearances on Dragon’s Den, Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives, You Gotta Eat Here, and Eat St. The man responsible for maple bacon donuts is also a judge on the Food Network’s Doughnut Showdown. We caught up with Caplansky to find out more about his awesome career and where he grabs a bite in his downtime.
Tell us a bit about your background in food?
While all the recipes at the deli are either my own creation or family recipes, I am classically trained. I apprenticed at a restaurant in BC and graduated from George Brown College. However, like most people in this industry, it’s my work experience that informs much of what I know about food. Unlike most people, that experience includes starting a chai shop in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, cooking lessons in rural China and working in restaurants in London and Sydney.
What are some of your favourite delis in the world?
Of course, I love Schwartz’s in Montreal, Katz’s in NYC and Brent’s in LA. But they say you never forget your first love and my first deli love affair was with Switzer’s on Spadina here in Toronto. That’s where my Papa used to take me after “work” (I sharpened pencils, handed out candies and swept up) on Sundays. We’d sit in these little booths and order corned beef, fries and cream sodas. Bernice was always our waitress. She used to call me her “little boyfriend” and I used to help her run plates. Memories like that are what delis are all about.
I love Toronto because of its authentic flavours, ethnicity and the people that make it so much fun to live and eat here. Go Leafs Go!
What’s your go-to restaurant on a night off?
The Saint. Jesse Vallins is a master in the kitchen and the bar scene is exactly my speed. Plus its stumbling distance home.
What are some of your current and upcoming projects?
We’ve just launched our mustards in retail stores across the country. These will be followed by a bunch of other products you’ll find in fine food shops, butchers, cheese shops and grocery stores. Next up? Smoked meat.
We’re also renovating a 6000 sq ft production space that will allow our catering business to grow, give us more capacity for additional food trucks and supply some of the new locations we’ll be opening next year.