"His croissants were the best this side of Paris!" "Now the angels are feasting on his pain au chocolat!" So said Frank Von Zuben's friends and co-workers. A professional cook and baker, Frank spent more than 25 years at several restaurants across Canada including Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island, Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont., and, finally, at the bistro at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont.
Frank revelled in great wines, good coffee, hearty breads, artisan cheese and rich chocolate. By his own words, he packed the maximum number of calories that a cup of butter, sugar and flour could produce into each square inch of his cakes and pastries, which he always resisted eating.
Having Frank cook in your home not only meant you would be enjoying a superb meal but also that there would be a clean-up job in your future. He wildly poured olive oil into a pan, tossed salt across the entire cooking surface and used every pot, pan and bowl in the house.
Raised in Toronto, Frank was the oldest of four siblings. Like his parents, Fred and Margaret Von Zuben, he was involved at St. Joseph's Church. He studied at a seminary for three years but decided the priesthood was not his calling. He obtained his teaching degree and started his working life as an elementary-school teacher before his love of food led him into the restaurant industry.
Frank was a natural teacher. Family photo albums are filled with pictures of him reading to his five nieces and nephews. As soon as they could stand on a chair, he included them in meal preparation; side by side they would clean potatoes, rip lettuce, marinate meats and bake cookies.
Frank also shared his love of books, theatre, dance, art, movies and ideas with family and friends. He challenged us all to think.
Engagement in the art world requires unfortunate intimacy with HIV/AIDS. Frank saw many friends succumb to the disease, and it became a personal cause. Wherever he lived, he became active in community fundraising and events that commemorated those lost and gave hope to those living with HIV/AIDS.
Frank was generous and supportive of those he loved. If he knew you wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, he bought you a guitar. If you wanted to learn to drive, he lent you his car. If your child wanted to go to camp, he helped with the costs. His greatest joy was to help family and friends achieve their goals. Frank made many lives richer.
Johanne Von Zuben is Frank's sister, John Lane is Frank's brother-in-law and Vicki Von Zuben is Frank's sister-in-law.