You’ve heard the mantra: Don’t feed your dog table scraps. It’s been drummed into our heads so incessantly — gee, I wonder if the commercial dog food industry could have anything to do with that? — that I often come across people who apologize for feeding their dogs perfectly healthy food just because it doesn’t come in pellet form or out of a can.

It’s true that leftovers of fast food and sweets are not good for your dog. But they’re not good for you, either.

Which brings me to Craig Zeleznik, who has raised people food for dogs to an art form with his Chef K9’s Doggy Bistro & Bakery. Zeleznik is featured on this week’s Animal Cafe podcast interview with Mary Haight.

I know food

In my other life — the one where I’m not writing about dogs — I write about food and drink. I’m the Contributing Dining Editor for Tucson Guide, the Tucson editor for the Zagat survey, and have written food stories for Sunset magazine and National Geographic Traveler, among other publications.

So when I say that Zeleznik’s creations sound yummy (that’s a technical term), I speak as a professional.

Taste testing and aesthetics

Zeleznik, a chef with a background in nutrition and fitness, uses ingredients like hormone-free baked chicken breast, pearl barley, and steamed broccoli in his creations, so it’s no surprise that he samples the food that he and his staff make for their canine clients.

The gorgeous presentations are for the owners of course. Dogs couldn’t care less about aesthetics, although I have known Frankie to toss items of food he doesn’t like over the side of his bowl onto the floor, so I suppose he wouldn’t mind the separation of ingredients into distinct sections for pitching convenience.

The philosophy

There’s nothing to argue with Zeleznik about when it comes to the evils of the commercial dog food industry, which is one of the many topics he discusses with Mary Haight. I’m interested to learn more about the rationale behind the breed-specific diets he creates. What about mixed breeds? Yes, every dog is an individual, just as every human is, but it would seem to me that weight and activity level would be far greater factors in determining what a dog should eat than genes.

So that’s what I plan to ask Zeleznik about at this week’s chat. Check out the podcast here and then come to the Chat Cafe on Wednesday, May 25th, at 9PM EST to ask the chef your own questions. Or just tell to him that his food looks awesome.


8 thoughts on “Dog Food a Restaurant Critic Can Love”

  1. I have noticed the breed specific diets in commercial dog food, didn’t realize that it was in this market too. I have never really understood that. I have to agree, what about the mixed breeds? I have tried some people food with Kirby, so far, he loves peanut butter, chicken, beef, and greenbeans and dislikes yogurt! I would agree with you, the weight and activity rate of the dog is what you should use when determining what to feed them.

    Kirby’s mom

    1. Frankie is not always fond of yogurt either and sometimes goes off chicken, but I’ve never had him turn down beef or peanut butter, two of my favorite food groups too! If you don’t come by to the chat — and I hope you do — I’ll let you know the answer to the breed specific question.

  2. Edie, I agree with you about the mantra of “no human food” the pet food manufacturers planted in people’s minds these many years. I’m glad to see that’s changing. I also question the idea of “breed-specific” diets. Species-specific…yes. Breed-specific? Hmmm. Also cooking and baking destroys the beneficial enzymes in the food. Although, I know some dogs need some light cooking of food. I looked at the ingredients of the Chef K9’s breed-specific diets and I wonder why most of them contain whole wheat croutons, bran flakes (and corn mash and other grains…and shredded cheese?) Seriously? This might be okay as the odd treat. But I would never feed these “breed-specific” diets on a regular basis. It’s better than extruded kibble, but I smell marketing in this too.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with grains per se, just not the kind that gets put into most kibble. I give Frankie brown rice for his carbohydrate intake; bran without sugar would be good for fiber. I was just reading somewhere about a little cheese being okay too.

      But yes, marketing… gotta love it!

  3. The whole “never give a dog human food” thing was drummed into me since childhood. Every time my parents saw a dog that looked slightly overweight they would shake their heads and say “it’s all those table scraps.” So for a little while I never gave my dog anything but kibble either. Fortunately for her, I am a total softie and it wasn’t long before I was sneaking her pieces of chicken and looking up canine-friendly recipes on the internet. We have a strict “begging allowed” policy in our house. Considering most people think she is excessively thin, I am doubting the belief that table scraps = weight gain in dogs.

    I’m curious about this breed-specific food as well. Does it have anything to do with an animals’ assumed energy level or general breed-specific type of activity?

    1. Weight is such a fraught issue with people, and there’s so much projection going on. My mother used to point out obese people to me in a cautionary way; people assume that Frankie got diabetes because he was overweight (I always have to haul out the “diabetes in dogs is Type 1” lecture).

      You’ll have to come by the chat and see what the chef has to say!

  4. Love it! Is his bakery in FLA open to the public or does he just do mail order? The physical location, if there is one, and I hope there is, sounds like a great hang-out for dogs and their people.

    A travel post maybe? “OMG! Beyond awesome: Yummy shops that cater to dogs with discriminating tastes and their people.” Sort of a Zaygat Guide for dogs.

    1. Yes, I just called to check. The bakery is open to the public, with a display case for baked goods and a few chairs and a couch for dogs and their people. I love the idea of a Zagat Guide for dogs. Since I have an in with them maybe I’ll suggest it. I hope it doesn’t put my “in” in jeopardy. Some people think discussing dog food in the context of people food is insulting. But not anyone who reads this blog, I suspect…

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