Renée Lavallée’s public title is “Chef, Mother, Crazy Cheeses Lover”. As of 2014, she added “Restaurateur” to her moniker. The Canteen quickly became one of the coolest new restaurants in Nova Scotia and this year grew out of its relatively small quarters.
Renée hails from Shawville, a town in western Quebec, close to the magic of Chelsea and Les Fougères where, after chefs school, she would eventually work. She had a short sojourn on P.E.I. at the Inn at Bay Fortune before moving to Halifax-Dartmouth to begin the second stage of that career as a mother and a wife. Her utter dedication to local procurement began long before it was fashionable and no matter where she lands, it’s the centre piece of her cooking.
The Canteen is what she calls ” a culmination of my life’s work.” She continues, “I want to be that 40 year old woman, standing behind the counter, with a smile on her face, serving you the best soup you’ve ever had. The lady that ushers you into the kitchen to try a spoonful of something magical. After all the years of cooking, I finally want to enjoy my job the way I have always dreamt of; with family, friends and neighbours around me – filling their bellies with goodness.” On their recent move to a larger location, she adds, “We will bring the same food philosophy to The Canteen on Portland that has successfully guided our current business – honest, unpretentious food, made with love…. with a little bit of Renée’s magic thrown in.”
And goodness it is! Thick juicy slices of brisket are topped with house-made pickles and served on the freshest rye bread in the city. How many restaurants bake their own pitas? Canteen does — and fills them with crisp-crusted felafel, house made pickled carrots, turnip & beets, Tzatiki and sprouts. The jerk pork sandwich overflows with crunchy slaw, scallion mayo and mango-cilantro chutney on a house made challah bun. The meat loaf sandwich first created to honour the Sochi Gold Medal Hockey game is served with bread and butter pickles…the sort that every Women’s Institute Cookbook would have as a pantry staple.”
22 Portland Street,
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 1G9
Photos by Doug Townsend, Renée’s partner, husband and recipe taster.