What does a chef do when their restaurant is closed, and there’s no one to really cook for? For Toronto’s Chef Sean MacDonald, he got a puppy and started making her gourmet (to the nth-degree) dog food. Now, this dog food doesn’t even look like dog food. It’s made with restaurant-quality ingredients and the plating puts us all to shame. Chef Sean is a true artist and is passionate about feeding his baby puppy Hazelnut only the best.
Sean started posting Hazel’s meals on Tiktok and almost overnight, they’ve blown up and gone viral. Some of the food he’s made for her ranges from carbonara to even Wagyu steak. Safe to say that Hazelnut is one lucky dog. Our editor Blair had a chance to catch up with Sean to not only score one of his recipes but to also find out how all of this started and what Hazelnut’s favourite has been so far.
Blair Stutz: What drove you to start making Hazelnut’s food yourself?
Sean MacDonald: One of my best friends’ dogs had puppies and when I went to go visit them, I immediately fell in love with Hazelnut. I wanted to treat her to the best food and thought it would be funny to cook tasting menu dishes for her and post it on Tiktok. I have a restaurant in Toronto called ēst and it’s been temporarily closed due to COVID, so I have been enjoying cooking similar dishes for her that we serve at the restaurant.
BS: What’s been your favourite dish so far that you’ve made for her?
SM: I recently made her a puppy carbonara. That was fun. She ate it the fastest of all the dishes. I also really liked making the first one I ever did. I served her A5 Wagyu and a bone marrow Jus for Valentine’s Day. I ended up spending over $200 on that one dish for her.
BS: The food you make for Hazelnut looks nothing like traditional dog food. What changes do you typically have to make to your dishes to make them dog-friendly?
SM: I research what foods are ok for dogs. I usually overcook some stuff so it’s easier for her to chew since she is a puppy. I also cut everything into smaller pieces in case she doesn’t chew it and it goes down whole. We were on the Today Show Australia and she tried to eat a whole piece of pork in one bite and choked it up on live tv.
BS: Have any of your dishes not agreed with her? Has she ever turned up her nose at anything?
SM: Believe it or not, she has never gotten sick or anything from any dish. I’m very careful with what she eats and give her small portions. She eats a very healthy balanced diet everyday besides the tasting dishes. I just gave her a mango and coconut dish and for the first time ever it took her a minute to decide if she liked it or not.
BS: What advice would you give to folks who are curious about making their own dog food?
SM: Research. Give your dog small amounts to start to see if it sits well with them. Make sure all the food is balanced (protein, fibre, fats etc..) check to see how the food affects them. I found out my pup is allergic to chicken.
Here’s how to make Chef Sean’s Braised Short Rib and Bone Marrow Ragout with Pumpkin!
*If you are unsure about making your own dog food or you have questions, please consult your vet to ensure it’s right for your dog*
- 300g Beef Short Rib, bone-in
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 sprig Rosemary
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 pc bone marrow bone
- 1 pumpkin
- pea tendrils, for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Mix some salt in a bowl filled with half a litre of water. Add the bone marrow bone to the water and let sit in the fridge. This will draw the blood out of the bone marrow.
- Cut your pumpkin into thin slabs about half a cm thick. Ring cut the pumpkin. (Cut pumpkin however you would like for plating. These are the instructions for the plating in the photo) Place a small pot on medium-high heat on the stove filled with water. Once the water is boiling, put the pumpkin in the water and cook for a few minutes until the pumpkin is soft but still holds shape. Place pumpkin in the fridge on a plate to cool. Put plastic wrap over it.
- Cut the rest of the pumpkin up into small cubes along with the carrot, celery, and fennel. Place the veg in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Add the thyme and rosemary into the pot and place over low heat.
- Put the short ribs on a baking tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes (or until the beef is nicely browned on the outside.) Take the beef out of the oven and place the beef in the pot with the veg. Deglaze the baking tray with water, scrape any bits off the pan and add the water to the pot. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Cover the pot with the beef and veg with tin foil and place in the oven for 3 hrs. Once cooked, take pot out of the oven and allow everything to completely cool. (This will ensure the be the most moist for your puppy) Once cooled, strain the liquid into a smaller pot and reduce by half over high heat.
- Pick apart the beef with your fingers into small pieces. The beef should be very tender.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Take the marrow bone out of the water and place it on a baking tray. Place the bone in the oven for 15 minutes, until the bone marrow is slightly cooked. Take the bones out of the oven and let cool slightly. Using a spoon, scrape out the bone marrow into a small sauté pan. Add the braised beef and mix with a spoon until incorporated. Heat over low heat until warm. Be sure not to have it too hot for your puppy.
- Assemble and plate the components however you like. For the picture, I put the bone marrow and beef mix inside the marrow bone and poured the broth in the bottom, topped with the pumpkin. If you cut up the pumpkin, mix it into the beef, or however you would like to serve. Pot the warm braising liquid that has been reduced over the dish. And serve to your puppy.
- Make sure to not add any salt to the food.
Photo & Recipe: Chef Sean MacDonald