To say that Robin Wasicuna is passionate about his craft could be an understatement. Other possible descriptors could include: serious, dedicated or ebullient. As one of the Northwest Territories’ most outspoken and publicly praised chefs, Wasicuna is a boon to both Yellowknife and to the northern food scene in general.
Wasicuna is the owner of Wiseguy Foods, no-nonsense food truck in Yellowknife that serves up fantastic, fresh nosh that never stagnates in flavour nor quality. He’s also run a pop-up restaurant called Numbers at Bayside, hosted underground dinners (think Cinco de Mayo-themed with lots of pork and peppers) and is about to venture into an eatery sans wheels: the Twin Pine Diner at the Arnica Inn. A former Chopped Canada competitor and NWT food ambassador, Wasicuna’s cooked in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Yellowknife and even in my tiny, Vancouver apartment kitchen. He’s a proud dad and a big softie of a husband.
If Wasicuna were a dessert, he’d be a bourbon and bacon sundae: strong, salty and sweet. Like the sundae ingredients, his booming voice, tattoos and confident demeanor are layered over top of a genuinely delightful personality. Just ask him about northern food, and you see a big serious dude beam from inside out. Read more to find out about his f*#king awesome job after the jump.
Robin Wasicuna , Chef/owner of Wiseguy Foods & the soon to be open Twin Pine Diner,44 years old, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
So how did you get that f*#king awesome job? Can you describe what your job is and what it is that you do?
I quit the security and comfort of working for some one else and started my own business. I own a food truck and catering company.
Did you have to give anything up to get here?
Everything. The only way to get what you want is through hard work and sacrifice.
Who or what has been your mentor/inspiration along the way?
My mentor is a gentleman named Jiro Ooishi. He really opened my eyes to what a cook or chef could be if you put in the effort. My inspiration is around me everyday. I never stop learning and educating myself.
In three words or less, what’s the best part of your job?
In three words or less, what’s the worst part of your job?
I’m a perfectionist
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A rock star
What is your drink of choice?
Bourbon. Anyway is fine, neat, rocks, in a cocktail, don’t care. Just give me that sweet, brown liquor after a 70 hr work week!
Where was the last place you travelled?
Edmonton, Alberta. I know, really glamorous! I was in town to cook a 22 course meal involving northern ingredients such as walrus, polar bear, three types of whale, caribou, moose and much more. Great time cooking with other amazing chefs!
What’s on your playlist right now?
Al ot of rockabilly, some mariachi music, punk and some classic hip hop – Biggie, Erik b, DE LA soul, A Tribe Called Quest.
What are your top three reads vis a vis your career (books, magazines, manuals, podcasts)?
Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
PBS series Mind of a Chef
Any advice for someone who’s looking to lock down their f*#king awesome job?
Work harder than you ever have. And when you think you are working hard enough, work harder. It’s the only way.
What does the future behold for your f*#king awesome job?
We are opening our 1st restaurant in a few weeks. The hard work has paid off!! Now it’s time to work harder!
A giant thank you to Yellowknife photographers James MacKenzie and Pat Kane who shared their photos of Robin with me. Great photos make for a great story.
** Story update: Robin and his wife Karen have opened the Twin Pines Diner in Yellowknife where they serve up a rotating menu of local, innovative deliciousness. Check them their Facebook page HERE.**
*I want to insert a HUGE caveat here. I did not come up with this column name, my favourite, now deceased magazine – Readymade – did. I hope to emulate their ethos here (the questions are from my brain with a bit of audience testing from friends/family). As an extrovert and general lover of the human race, I am inspired by people who LOVE their jobs. So I thought I would dedicate some space on the world wide web to profiling people who have f*#king awesome jobs: who they are, how they got there and what advice would they give others.*