Liz Cunningham, owner of Chez Tess restaurant in the North End of Halifax, is excited to see her restaurant featured on The Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here program.
Cunningham, a television professional who originally hailed from New York, said it’s been her dream to open her own restaurant, and now that her own restaurant is being featured on the Food Network, it’s a dream come true.
The episode featuring Chez Tess will air on March 1, at 10 p.m. Atlantic Time.
"They just called us up out of the blue, a researcher for the show found us online and asked me a bunch of questions to see if our restaurant fit with the theme of the show," Cunningham said. "From there it had to go through several more levels before we were approved and finally we were."
Cunningham said the show focuses on small, local restaurants that are located ‘somewhere off the beaten path.’
"I think we fit that bill," she said.
Chez Tess is located on Charles Street off Agricola. Cunningham said the entire area is going through a renaissance.
"When I signed the lease and started this whole process, this part of town was not where it is right now, it was a much more affordable option than downtown," she said. "Growing up in New York, there were always these little family-run restaurants where you could sit down enjoy a meal and have a glass of wine. But in Halifax, you used to have to go downtown. I wanted to bring that feeling here."
Rachel Horvath is the supervising producer of You Gotta Eat Here. She said that Chez Tess popped on their radar because of their menu, atmosphere and location.
“What we liked about Tess is that they’re doing classic country French type food in Halifax, and also making it more accessible with crepes and waffles,” Horvath said from Toronto. “We also like the idea that her location is off the beaten path, so it’s a bit of a discovery, even for Halifax locals.”
Chez Tess isn’t the only restaurant in HRM to be featured on You Gotta Eat Here, gourmet burger joint Cheese Curds will also be on the show this season.
“Everything went very smoothly during the shoot, and I think we can thank Liz for that because of her background in television,” Horvath said. “I think she’ll be happy with the segment and we’re quite thrilled with how it went.”
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Two hectic days of shooting
Liz Cunningham recalls how hectic filming the segment was at Chez Tess
"It was extremely hectic, and two very long days," Cunningham said. “We were closed to the public on the first day when the crew was shooting in the kitchen with the chef for wide shots and close ups and it was a very long, tedious 12-hour day.
"The following day of shooting was a Friday and we were open to the public during that day of filming," she said, noting the dining area is not very large to accommodate a high number of patrons and a full camera crew. "We had cameras and sound equipment and the whole crew in here and of course, it was also our busiest day since we opened."
She said a sign was displayed letting patrons know that a camera crew was inside, so that customers wouldn't be caught off guard.
"Most people that day were excited for us, asking when it would air and were generally into it," she said. "In addition to the kitchen having to prepare for a very busy Friday lunch, when the producer said 'Ok I need this dish now,' they had to be able to fit that in and they did an amazing job. I honestly don't know how the kitchen got through that day, but they rose to the occasion."