Is Columbus’ Zelnik the Next Food Instagram Star?
Ryan Miller takes his great-grandmother’s zelnik recipe to the ’Gram.
After speakeasy pizzeria Wizard of Za scored its own restaurant in Clintonville, the hunt began for the next local underground food sensation. Ryan Miller says, why not zelnik—the Macedonian pastry?
Last year, the Canal Winchester native began selling his take on the traditional treat through Instagram under the handle @zelnik614. (He’s currently looking for a commercial kitchen.) An engineer with food business aspirations, Miller was inspired by Wizard of Za and interested in keeping his family’s Macedonian food traditions alive.
What is zelnik? It’s a wonderfully flaky, stuffed pastry constructed with very thin layers of phyllo. “It’s a laborious process to make the laminated dough,” says Miller, who makes his dough from scratch and uses a recipe handed down from his Macedonian great-grandmother on his mother’s side—aka Baba. “Traditionally it’s prepared in a rather large sheet for the whole family around the holidays or other special occasions. That’s how we grew up with it,” he says.
Miller’s go-to zelnik, and the most traditional, is filled with eggs, leeks and Bulgarian sheep’s milk cheese. Dubbed Baba’s Original, the pastry makes a fine breakfast dish and comes with ajvar, a red pepper condiment found all over the Balkans. Miller also makes nontraditional versions such as spiced beef with roasted tomatoes and, recently, a jambalaya zelnik for Fat Tuesday.
“[Baba] didn’t write any of the recipes down, didn’t use traditional measuring devices. She had a coffee mug that she would portion out ingredients with. So, nobody took the time to learn how to make it,” Miller says. That changed when Miller’s father began spending time in the kitchen with Baba. He started jotting down notes and converted her coffee cup measurements into more precise calculations. His tweaks to the zelnik recipe eventually earned Baba’s approval.
We approve as well.
Miller makes zelnik deliveries on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can order by direct messaging him on Instagram at @zelnik614.