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From the mezzanine overlooking the downstairs café, Renée Lavallée will be serving up sandwiches, soups, salad and food-to-go. She will also host cooking classes, private dinners and a monthly, five-course family dinner run in conjunction with TIBS co-owners Tara MacDonald and Zane Kelsall and their staff.    

Lavallée has been working with the duo for three years, often using the upstairs space, since her last kitchen line position as executive chef at Five Fishermen. 

“This is a natural progression, the next step, because TIBS only sells pastries and coffee and that’s it; they don’t want to do anything else,” Lavallée told ARN, adding there is a demand in the neighbourhood for quality, good-value food.

“The great thing about this space is I’ll have 20 seats upstairs and Two If By Sea has about 40 or 50 seats,” said Lavellée. “We’re going to be using the two areas as one common area, which is great.” She noted the arrangement will be beneficial to both parties, as they each will attract new potential clientele.  

Lavallée brought Jessica Best, the former baker for Raymonds Restaurant in St. John’s, on board to make breads and bagels in house.  

With an average check of about $13, The Canteen will offer a rotating selection of five sandwiches, such as jerk pork with mango chutney and a crunchy slaw; two soups, such as a roasted eggplant and chickpea with harissa in the summer; and a hot lunch of the day, such as spaghetti and meatballs or Thai green curry chicken. 

Open from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., people can come every night and grab a hot meal to go home, said Lavallée.  

She will plan the menu depending on seasonality and what she can get from local producers. Not committing to one type of food, Lavallée said she would feature a mix of cuisines, including Middle Eastern, Asian and Italian.  

After 20 years in the industry, Lavallée said her cooking style is simple: she doesn’t want people to have to overthink the dishes, and finds herself cooking what she would make for her family at home. 

While customers are free to roam between the two establishments, the concepts will look distinct, said Lavallée. Downstairs, TIBS has a clean look with white walls and wooden tables and chairs. 

Construction on The Canteen started in January, and the 700-square-foot space will feature a 300-square-foot, completely open kitchen built on castors to make it easy to move for cooking class. Along the back wall of the building, the kitchen and a wood-framed chalkboard menu will be visible from downstairs. 

Lavallée plans to use punches of colour, such as turquoise chairs, red pendant lights and local artwork.  On the walls, planters will be filled with edible herbs and sprouts to use throughout the year. 

Last summer, Lavallée opened The Shack Oyster Bar with a partner at Queen’s Wharf. She will continue running the eatery for at least two more summers and make The Shack’s food at The Canteen, sending it across the harbour by ferry.