When Maz Esnouf was back in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, she had dreams of skiing “big mountains.” So she asked her brother, Leo Guaraldo, for advice about which Canadian ski resort to work at. She’d been scoping out a job fair; he’d worked Whistler Blackcomb in the early 2000s and raved about it.
Leo thought for a minute, then said—and we’re paraphrasing here—well, what are you going for? Are you going for a cultural experience? If so, don’t go to Whistler. It’s full of Australians! But if you want to ski, Whistler’s the only choice. She took it.
“I didn’t even do the second interview,” says Maz, whom you might have met through Whistler Public Library, maybe at the services desk or via one of the popular Zoom Cookbook Club sessions she started during the pandemic.
“I was like, I’m going to take that job—I’m going to Whistler! I wanted to ski the big stuff. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to immerse myself in a ski resort and a ski life, and Whistler has all of that,” she says.
That was 15 years ago. Today, Maz notes, like many locals who end up sticking it out for years, Whistler is so much bigger now than it was when she first arrived. But she still has the Whistler Blackcomb ski map she kept on her bedroom wall the first few seasons to highlight every run she skied. She’s pretty sure they’re all marked.
It was such a good fit that Maz came to Whistler to teach kids how to ski. An elementary school teacher in Melbourne, she has the personality and presence to handle a gaggle of kids, anywhere, anytime. Even today, when some of her early ski students come in to the library, they remember her with delight. And tower over her.
The “big mountains” have stood her in good stead in other ways. She met her husband, Tim, at Whistler Blackcomb when he was also a ski instructor, and since he’s originally from Bendigo, a city about as far from Melbourne as is Whistler from Vancouver, you can picture how hopeful Maz’s mom was.
“Oh, you’ll be moving back to Australia now!” Maz recalls her mom exclaiming. But that wasn’t to be.
See that maple-leaf flag Maz is proudly holding, above? She and Tim were sworn in as Canadian citizens in their Bayshores living room last month during a virtual citizenship ceremony. And once we actually get in to their fridge—stand by for that next column—we’ll find some ice wine intended to mark the occasion, but overlooked in the excitement, along with a can of Molson Canadian left from a case a friend brought over to celebrate same.
The other big day recently celebrated in the Esnouf household was the sixth birthday of son, Thomas. And you could say he was the driving force that delivered Maz to all of us library lovers. When Thomas was young, Maz was still working at Whistler Blackcomb as manager of group sales, a “really intense full-time job.”
“I was looking for an opportunity to work part-time … and the Whistler library is the most amazing place ever,” she says. “I always loved the library, and the stars just kind of aligned.” Much as they did back in Melbourne.
And, much like she wanted to ski big mountains then, she’s also wanted to go back to school one day and study to be a librarian. You won’t be surprised to learn this past year—besides cooking up a storm at home and in Cookbook Club; helping library users; and looking after Thomas—Maz has been working online getting her Masters of Library Studies from Australia’s Charles Sturt University.
If that doesn’t impress you, this “wow” vegan recipe from her favourite cookbook at the library will. It’s from East, by Meera Sodha, a popular chef, food writer and author who’s just as keen about meat-free eating as Maz is. You can find more of Meera’s delicious vegan recipes here, all of them easy cooking.
Honey, Soy, and Ginger Braised Tofu
10 oz. extra-ﬁrm tofu
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. honey (or agave syrup for vegans)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 Bartlett pear, grated (Maz used apples instead, and it turned out fine)
4 green onions, ﬁnely chopped; whites and greens separated
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. gochujang paste
2 tbsp. canola oil
Handful of black and white sesame seeds, as garnish
Lightly press the tofu between your hands to press out as much water as possible into a sink. Wrap in paper towels and set aside. In a bowl, whisk the soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, pear (or apple, as above), green onion whites, sesame oil, gochujang, and 1 tbsp. water. Remove the tofu from the paper towels; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large frying pan, heat the canola oil until it smokes; fry the tofu slices for eight minutes, until golden on both sides. Remove the tofu to the plate so the towels absorb excess oil. Remove all but 1 tbsp. of oil from the pan. Add the soy and honey sauce. Stir for a minute, then put the tofu back into the pan and cook for five minutes until the sauce reduces, becoming glossy and thick. To serve, place the tofu in a dish; pour the sauce over top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and the remaining green onion.
See you next time for Part 2 of “What’s in Maz’s fridge?”
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who can’t wait to try this recipe