Zoran Bert Caszo is a chef-extraordinaire. He’s worked all over the world and in 2015, while studying at Le Cordon Bleu, he began preparing meals at the St. Joe’s Supper Table. He brought to the table, his experience as well as his strong feel for flavours. We thought so highly of him that we hired him to prepare our Christmas breakfast this year (which we greatly enjoyed). They say an artist’s work is never complete, so I sat down with Zoran to find out what drives Zoran to keep honing his craft.
Brandon: Where are you from originally?
Zoran: Ethnically, I’m a mix of Serbian and Indian-Portuguese. I was born in Krusevac, Serbia but after the Yugoslav war; I moved to Mumbai, India. My name, Zoran, comes from the Serbian word “zora” which means “dawn.”
B: So, what made you decide cooking was something that you wanted to pursue?
Z: Well, I was initially studying to be an airline pilot but in the first year of flying school, the FAA passed a regulation that if you didn’t meet the 6/6 eyesight standard, you wouldn’t make the grade. Glasses, contacts, or even an eye operation wouldn’t make matters better either. Flying was my Dream, but Cooking was my Passion. So, I decided to turn my Passion into a Career.
B: Why make the move to Ottawa?
Z: Being in the Cruise Line Industry for over a decade gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world, but mostly to American and Canadian ports of call. Being familiar with the environment and people made me favour Le Cordon Bleu’s Ottawa School over its other schools worldwide.
B: Describe your experience at Le Cordon Bleu. What is your favourite part?
Z: I’m currently pursuing my Post Master’s Diploma in Culinary Arts & Bakery. Le Cordon Bleu, being one of the top institutes in the industry, among the Culinary Institute of America, Les Roches, and Cornell; was the only finishing school whose seal I wanted on my resume.
The best thing I can say about Le Cordon Bleu is the professionalism in the environment, the intricate details, and the finesse in creating Hauté Cuisine. There is an intense level of competition and an ethnically diverse culture from over thirty nations. It’s safe to say I haven’t had any regrets so far.
B: When not honing your craft, you’ve spent a lot of time at the Supper Table over the past year. How did that come about?
Z: Well, I come from a family of doctors. My mum, brother, and sister have all volunteered in the Missions in the past. That created a positive impression on me. I wanted to give back to God, the people who serve Him and society. This is the best way I perceived I could do it.
B: What do you think is important for people to know about the Supper Table?
Z: As much as it is a business-minded organization, it is a truly a family of like-minded people working in harmony to serve God by creating an environment filled with warmth, kindness, and acceptance for the world to come and partake in that happiness and pay it forward.
B: What would you say is your favourite part of working with the Supper Table and St. Joe’s?
Z: Working with Mary Murphy, who is an extraordinary and kindhearted manager. And also Mildred Nesbitt, who’s by far been the most gentle, seasoned, and professional volunteer and Chef’s Assistant I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
B: I understand you’re working for a hotel at the moment.
Z: Yes, I am working on a part-time basis with The Westin right now; although, I will be looking to move to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier soon.
B: Do you think your work experience helps you at the Supper Table?
Z: Yes, working in other jobs and my past experience brings a great deal of professionalism and finesse when I cook at the Supper Table. Just because the Supper Table is a “soup kitchen”, doesn’t give those less fortunate a lesser right to the pie. When I cook at the Supper Table, I like to give my guests an experience worth cherishing.
B: Where do you see yourself headed? Would you like to open a restaurant or cater events maybe?
Z: Having worked in two Michelin-starred restaurants during my career in the past, I am working everyday on a new found aspiration to one day be a Michelin-Starred Chef, and among the best in my game. Owning a restaurant sounds like a viable option, but for me, it’ll come after many more years in the industry.
B: Favourite and least favourite dish to prepare?
Z: Favourite – Poulet Basquaise; and Least Favourite- Lotte a l’Armoricaine
B: Tips for St.Joe’s home chefs?
Z: A Recipe has no Soul. You as the chef must bring Soul to the Recipe. A home chef that grew up around grandma’s cooking is far superior than a chef that went to culinary school, for cooking is in their blood. True to the fact that even to this day, my mum’s a way better cook than me & all my culinary expertise. So my advice to you would be to find your inner passion and stay interested in it.
B: We at St. Joe’s will be interested to see where God takes you on your Culinary quest. Thanks for your time.
Z: It’s my pleasure. I’m glad to be of service.