When Rob DiRenzo, owner of longtime, popular downtown restaurant Muio’s decided to put his business up for sale in 2021, he felt it was time for a change.
After a period of reflection and discussion with his family, DiRenzo recently joined the crew of the Griffon, a Canadian Coast Guard multi-purpose vessel and light icebreaker with the rank of Second Cook.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” DiRenzo told SooToday, while the ship was at port in Quebec City.
“We have a fantastic crew of 30, of people from all over the world. It’s been pretty amazing getting to know them. We live in close quarters here so you get to know each other pretty quick. It’s been a lot of fun and really interesting and there are a lot of beautiful sights to see.”
With the Coast Guard, DiRenzo said he’s using the skills he acquired in the restaurant industry while enjoying a close up look at some of the country’s natural beauty and its historic sights.
“Right now we’re docked at the Quebec base and I can see the Plains of Abraham,” DiRenzo said.
He added that he also enjoys those days when he sees nothing but water.
“I love it. It’s beautiful, even when it gets stormy. It’s beautiful, it really is.”
DiRenzo has his own private cabin on the Griffon.
“It’s like a nice little hotel room. They treat you very well.”
With satellite TV on board, he and his shipmates get the chance to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“We watch the games every night and play cards. I’m not a Leafs fan but there are several on board so I have fun razzing them.”
“But I’m a Red Wings fan so I can’t say too much,” he said with a chuckle.
DiRenzo rises with his shipmates at 6 a.m. daily and prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner for the crew during 12-hour shifts.
“I cook for the officers, take care of the officers mess hall and the galley. You do a bit of everything when you’re on board. The days go by very quickly,” he said.
“I’m moving all day long and I like to be on my feet. It’s very similar to the restaurant, where I’m just running around doing something different all day long. I’ve got a great crew here just like back at the restaurant. I had a great crew there. It’s very similar.”
DiRenzo is currently on his first 28-day tour with the Griffon, the ship performing most of its duties on the Great Lakes.
“The nice thing about it is that after the 28-day tour you get 28 days off and they pay you for those 28 days off when you're at home. They want you to have your work-family balance.”
“Of course, I miss my family a lot,” said the married father of two daughters, though he is able to place calls while at port and send text messages and photos while on the Great Lakes.
His first tour ends during the week of May 8.
DiRenzo said he’s taking it “one tour at a time” before he decides whether to stay with the Coast Guard on a long-term basis.
“It’s pretty military but I love it. I’ll have 28 days off and I’ll decide from there, see how I feel about it and how my family feels and we’ll go from there.”
He added that he would urge young people to check out careers in the Coast Guard.
“It’s a wonderful experience. There are wonderful opportunities. I would say definitely look into it. The Coast Guard has its own college in Nova Scotia. For a young person I would definitely recommend it.”