When Renée Lavallée left her job as chef with the Five Fishermen in Halifax two years ago she knew her life was about to change - she was just two days away from having her second child, after all. What she didn’t know was that she was about to embark on a whole new career path.
Lucky for food lovers in Dartmouth that she did.
Known as the Feisty Chef on her food blog, Lavallée splits her time between running full-tilt after her children, ages four and two, and juggling her very busy work schedule of cooking classes, private catering and, of course, the very popular Family Dinners – all run out of the funky Two If By Sea (TIBS) Café space.
The Family Dinners began a couple of years ago and are held once or twice a month; they sell out within a couple of hours. With long tables pulled together and Lavallée in the kitchen, laughter flows as easily as the wine.
“Sharing food is such a joy. In the winter especially, it is so nice to come together and share food,” Lavallée said.
Weekly cooking classes, also held at TIBS throughout most of the year, are another popular offering. Last week it was Italian cooking night, where 36 eager students drank wine, laughed and learned how to make risotto from scratch.“I just got back from Italy last month so I was excited to share that,” Lavallée said.
This week Lavallée’s sharing her recipe and tips for making her famous tourtiere. A French-Canadian from the Gatineau Hills region of Quebec, tourtiere was a holiday staple in Lavallée’s childhood home.
“The crust is the challenge for most people. I try to help them not be scared of it. We have some wine, that helps,” Lavallée said.
For $150, people can also book the TIBS space and hire Lavallée to cater a private function, an option that is growing in popularity, she said.
Running her own business has its challenges, such as having to do the bookkeeping.
“I’m horrible at accounting,” she said. But overall, Lavallée feels as though she’s landed right where she’s meant to be.
“My husband’s from here but I don’t have my own family here so this place (TIBS) and these dinners they’ve helped me find my own place. It’s like we’ve created our own family, right here.”