Zane Caplansky’s white borscht
Maybe it was the wine, but after a lavish dinner in L.A. a few years ago with fellow chefs and friends Bob Blumer and Jeff Mahin (co-founder of Chefs Cycle for the No Kid Hungry charity ride), Zane Caplansky, the Toronto deli king, signed on to ride 300 miles in three days. The charity ride raises money to eradicate childhood hunger.
About 90 lb. overweight at the time, and without a bike, Caplansky finished about 75 per cent of the event. “The ride was one of the most punishing and most physically demanding things I have done in my life,” he said.
In 2019, he would return to Chefs Cycle. This time, he trained, lost the weight and rode the entire race on a Giant Defy Advanced 2. “Being able to pedal on the upstroke and not hit my gut was amazing,” he said. Next year, he is riding again, in Oregon.
The bike is more than a workout – it’s helped him endure personal struggles and navigate a whirlwind food career. Deli is in his blood. His great-grandfather owned a kosher deli, and his great-grandmother sold deli sandwiches on Spadina Street in Toronto. After selling sandwiches out of the city’s Monarch Tavern, he went on to open his own deli, Caplansky’s Delicatessen, on College Street in 2008. A dispute with the building’s landlord led to the closing of the deli in 2018. He’s appeared on numerous Food Network programs, such as Diners,drive-insanddives. Now, he has a deli at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and a kiosk at the stadium where the Blue Jays play.
His next reincarnation is the launch of a national mustard tour. (Caplansky’s Mustards are sold in independent grocery stores and online.) “I’m just looking for the perfect mustard mobile,” he said. The tour will also include two bikes, a Globe and Werkcycle, painted mustard yellow with front baskets for deliveries.
He recently purchased a cyclocross bike – something he plans to ride on the beaches of his new hometown of Tofino, B.C. “The bike ride in 2016 was a spark,” he said. “A whole bunch of other things had to spark before it became a flame. It has been life-changing.”