The food and beverage scene in Halifax is vibrant, innovative, and increasingly filled with women who are pushing boundaries, following dreams, and carving out a niche for themselves. Six of the city’s newest ventures are being led by women who share a passion for their craft, boundless talent, and an incredible work ethic.
Dany Duguay — Anemone
Chef Dany Duguay is no stranger to the Halifax food scene. She’s been a baker, caterer, and personal chef for years. During the pandemic, she has been especially busy catering small, private events.
But, for the first time in her career, she is taking on a bricks-and-mortar space as a way to expand her horizons. That space, in the historic Halifax Brewery Market, is not exactly a restaurant, and her business model is not exactly traditional.
By day the space is subleased to a colleague who runs the new Terra Cafe, and by night (Thursdays to Saturdays) she will run Anemone, an intimate 40-seat spot that can be booked for dinner parties, receptions, or any other type of small event.
Dany calls it “A banquet hall but reinvented on a smaller scale”. It’s a completely customizable space and experience—the customer can choose the menu, the music, the lighting, and the drinks, and Dany and her small team will make it happen. It’s unlike anything else in the city, and Dany has spent the pandemic years nurturing the vision, refining the model, and preparing for the opening which should be in early spring.
As she builds Anemone into a new dining and event experience she will still be working hard on the many other sides of her business, making sure that at the heart of it all she continues to share her love for food and cooking.
Youjin Chung — Suda Table
Youjin is not a chef, nor is she a barista. And it was never her dream to open a café. And yet here she is as the proud owner of the new café Suda Table. Youjin was working as a graphic designer with a firm in Halifax when she realized working on a computer screen all day in isolation was not the life she wanted; she wanted to be with people.
Originally from Seoul, South Korea where the café culture is strong, she remembered how much she loved roaming from place to place discovering what was unique or interesting about each one.
She went back to Seoul for a vacation when the idea came to her that she could bring a taste of that culture back to Halifax. So while she was there she took a number of baking classes. When she came back, she threw herself into practicing her new craft and learning how to make really great coffee. Once she mastered both, after hour-upon-hour of baking, brewing, and studying, she was ready.
Suda Table opened in early February, and Youjin has done exactly what she wanted to do—create a unique café in Halifax reminiscent of her home city. She serves unique baked goods and pastries like egg tarts, basque cheesecake, and madeleines with flavours like yuzu and Earl Grey. She also makes a mean flat white.
As she looks ahead, Youjin plans on expanding her menu to include traditional South Korean savoury dishes. For now, though, she’s enjoying interacting with her customers and making sure her voice and personality are fully reflected in this cozy North End space.
Natalie Rosen — Fawn
For Natalie Rosen, opening the new restaurant Fawn with her friends and colleagues Katie Tower and Ceilidh Sutherland is a dream come true. Natalie has been working for Katie and Ceilidh for the past seven years as the chef at Field Guide, the popular but tiny restaurant in the North End of Halifax.
For Fawn, she’s all in as a co-owner and is thrilled to be part of this industry power trio who each bring a unique skill set to the table. At over 2,500 square feet, Fawn will be massive in comparison to Field Guide. And unlike Field Guide, it will be open seven days a week, day-to-night, and offer morning coffee service, lunch, dinner, an untraditional take on brunch, and a full bar program.
The menu will be Modern American with French and Italian influences, flavours that Natalie is partial to. Natalie acknowledges it’s an ambitious undertaking, “...by magnitudes. It’s going to be wild!” But she has no fear given the team they have built around them. And though Fawn will be unlike Field Guide in many ways, their goal of creating community is the same.
Their new South End location, in the trendy Pavilion development, is already home to a great collection of local businesses with a friendly neighbourhood vibe—one Natalie thinks Fawn will fit right in with.
The trio are taking their time to get their space exactly right, but they anticipate opening later this spring, just as confidence and tourism are rebounding—hopefully the perfect conditions for success.
Krista Armstrong — Local Source
Krista Armstrong, the owner of Local Source Market, is doing exactly what she is meant to do. Born and raised in the Annapolis Valley, Krista grew up eating locally and seasonally, and fully appreciates Nova Scotia’s bounty.
So at her market store in the North End of Halifax she is thrilled to give producers and growers, the stars of the show as she calls them, a platform. The problem though is that just like at Field Guide, her space is too small.
With an ever-growing list of producers, a desire to do more events like pop-ups and in-store tastings, and a need to have more capacity for her bustling curbside pick-up service, Krista knew she needed more space. So she started thinking big. Much bigger.
She found just what she was looking for at a former gas station in the city’s West End, on a very large corner lot with the capacity for 40 parking spots, a canopy perfect for drive-by pick-ups, and space for bins of pumpkins and stacks of fresh flowers to sit outside in the summer and fall months.
Even though her online business was more successful than she could have imagined, Krista is still excited by the in-store shopping experience, the one where her customers can smell the tomatoes, tap the melons, and share in the stories of the producers. With her second store, which is set to open later this spring, she will bring the best of the online and in-person worlds to Haligonians eager to share her love of local.
Emily Cowin — Boxing Rock
Shelburne-based brewery Boxing Rock has a tiny retail space inside Local Source Market. From the back of the building, they also operate a small nano-brewery that has doubled as their recipe test kitchen for a number of years.
During the pandemic, Boxing Rock’s business model changed as they discovered the benefits of online ordering and direct-to-home delivery. They were selling more beer than ever. Motivated by the need for more space, Boxing Rock, led by co-owner Emily Cowin, is now pulling up stakes at the original Local Source Market to move to the new Local Source Market in the West End. Emily thinks of their new space as a “choose-your-own-adventure” retail experience.
Customers will be able to pick up an order curbside, drop in to the self-serve kiosk, or stay for a tasting experience. It’s a great growth opportunity for Boxing Rock, and it’s one being mirrored in the larger craft brewing industry, the seeds of which were sown by another woman—the first commercial brewer in Canada, Susannah Oland.
As the first female craft brewer and owner in Nova Scotia and President of the Craft Brewery Association for five years, Emily is herself a trailblazer. Thanks to her tireless efforts more women are working in the industry and enjoying craft beer. And from her perspective, both are a very good thing.
Sharon De Leone — Tinápe
Long-time chef Sharon De Leone opened Tinápe late last year when her side hustle baking traditional Filipino bread and sweets out of her home kitchen became unmanageable. She was working a full-time job in a restaurant and staying up until the wee hours of the morning fulfilling orders for specialty cakes and ensaymada—a type of Filipino sweet bread—for friends who were hooked.
Tinápe, which is tucked away in a nondescript strip in the bottom of an apartment building, is the first Filipino bakery in Halifax and is quickly gaining a loyal following both inside and outside of the Filipino community.
In addition to ensaymada, Sharon has perfected another type of bread called pandesal, a soft roll often traditionally eaten for breakfast in the Philippines. And, of course, there are all kinds of sweets, like sans rival balls, which are layers of slowly-baked meringue wafers with French buttercream and roasted cashews, and beautifully light cakes that aren’t as sweet as North American varieties and include unique flavours like ube, a type of purple yam that is as tasty as it is pretty.
Sharon is still working extremely long hours because the orders never seem to stop coming and she can’t bear to disappoint anyone by saying no. But since she became a chef over 25 years ago, this bakery has been her dream, and for her, it’s worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears.