Why "Nontraditional Macedonian?" Firstly there is the creative license that the name implies, allowing me the freedom to make whatever variety of Zelnik I choose. However, that tagline also has connotations about my personality, my struggle for purpose and the path that lead me here.
I was shy and nerdy as a kid. I still am. Nothing gives me more anxiety than a room full of boisterous personalities. I have a busy mind and plenty to say, but typically keep to myself. Over time I've found alternative ways to express my personality. For instance, I started writing poetry when I was 14. About that time is when my football coach first called me Ryno (me, being Ryan). The nickname has stuck to this day. I’ve never said so but I loved it - an opportunity for a rebrand. Come 16, I drove a red low rider with racing stripes, equipped with two 12” subwoofers in the extended cab. I was the quietest kid at the party but you knew I was coming a mile away.
Post high school, I went through an awkward transition from preppy, suburban kid that loved hip-hop into a shaggy haired hip-pie. I found a sense of identity by fully embracing counter culture and everything that came with it, particularly the music. I even tried my hand at curating my own music festival. I'd go on to manage some local bands and promote countless bar shows. I was all in.
I learned A LOT from those endeavors, but the stress took its toll. After four years I decided that wasn’t the life for me. The traditional course of action would have been to finally buckle down on a career, perhaps even actually using my engineering degree. I took a temp job and worked my way into a salary gig. Though, I still had a burning desire for artistic expression.
A year later I discovered my next creative passion, in cooking. I was encouraged to experiment with new recipes because even if the creation sucked, at the very least I had some sustenance for the evening. Throughout my experimentation I would research the origins of each dish and ingredient. I fell in love with the stories and the history that food teaches us. It gave me great joy to share that information with others. No better opportunity for a quiet guy to speak his mind than when his audience has their mouths full of food.