Zoran Kocovski

Restaurant Entreprenuer
Tailored consulting and support services for industry stakeholders

My Story

My roots run deep in the food world, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I come from a Macedonian family entrenched in simple farming. When our family immigrated to Canada with few materials to our name, I was only an infant. My father took a position as a cook, and my mother as a factory worker, before they saved enough money to open a 50-seat diner in Toronto.

It was there in the small kitchen of Moonlight Grill on Queen Street East, at eight years old, that I first flipped eggs and hand peeled a bag of potatoes. The entrepreneurial spirit I witnessed in my dad had been in our family for generations. The value he put on an honest day’s work inspired me... It continues to motivate me today.

With education being integral to my family, I went on to York University. Several business ventures later, I found myself back in the restaurant business with the launch of Sassafraz. When a devastating fire occurred there, it redefined my career as I came away with a new sense of the vital importance of community and a passion for creating positive change.

A choice entrepreneurial quote…

“Money to a business is like air to a human, you need it to live but you don’t live to breath”

Susan Fowler

Why restaurants matter…

“Restaurants turn everyday moments into ones that are artfully crafted and choreographed, and not by accident. They are real life algorithms of preparation and product and design, where we are invited into a rarified world for a few hours…. Restaurants are mini-manufacturing facilities, there are a million moving parts and pieces — both behind and in front of the proverbial curtain — where design and fashion and lighting and movement all meet to create a vast and complex production…."

“As our society continues to slip into a digitized version of itself we increasingly require the human experience that dining out provides…Restaurants are not simply a matter of convenience…. They provide entertainment, comfort and community — they make us feel important, taken care of, nurtured, fed….Restaurants remain one of the last true analog experiences.”

Bo Peabody

The Vision

Community anchors me.

When a fire gutted Sassafraz in 2006, the outpouring of support I received from the community was integral to my decision to refocus and rebuild the restaurant. I left behind a deep sense of personal loss and gained strength from those around me. It was at this difficult time – one of the most challenging of my career – that I realized the community is essential.

Today I consider it a priority to give back. I carry a strong sense of community, while also valuing integrity and growth as necessities for an effective work environment to continue to thrive.

Through generosity and change, organizations of people can function optimally, in new ways. I propose a human-centred approach that reinvents how we work and puts a high value on the well-being and authenticity of all involved.

Creating an innovative food and beverage enterprise is possible when we reinvent how we work and commit to creating a community of people who devote themselves to significant social change through business. It need not be complex.

I’m talking about more than just numbers. I’m talking about growth that is heart-driven.

Rather than using top-down controls, I promote an open, collaborative, and innovative culture built on purpose.

This exceptional and exciting model features:

  • A tight-knit community passionate about food and beverage
  • A clear purpose that all people involved wholeheartedly endorse
  • Work done for the benefit of all


I continue to challenge the way that traditional business operates, in multiple areas, from the environment to giving.

  • Sassafraz was amongst the first commercial properties to adapt a vertical, eco-friendly “Bio-wall” of living tropical plants that filter indoor air.
  • After conceptualizing the Sassafraz Ice Carving Competition in 2000, I advocated for its expansion to the Bloor-Yorkville BIA. This initiative would grow to become Bloor-Yorkville IceFest. I handed over the concept in 2005.
  • At Sassafraz, our signature cocktail program in support of the MS Society of Canada ran for ten years.
  • Our community initiatives today include a VIP Table tribute to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
  • Sassafraz maintains several corporate community sponsorships, including:
    • Taste for Life (2004-present) to support Fife House for HIV/Aids support services
    • Toronto Taste (2008-present) for Second Harvest food rescue charity
    • Bloor Street Entertains (2004-present) for CANFAR federation for AIDS research
    • TIFF official hospitality sponsor (2000-2015)
    • HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival (2004-2012)
    • Canadian Film Centre event venue (2005-present)
  • I continue to be a member of the City of Toronto’s Small Business Council Advisory Body.
  • I am pleased to serve as a Director of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association.

These are just the highlights. Want the full scoop? Feel free to contact me.


I’m here to help! Reach out and contact me with questions, project proposals or if you want to set up an informal chat one on one. I’m only a message or call away.

Press Highlights