Six years ago, Jennie Dobbs left a career in finance for one in food. As the owner of Morris East, her focus is on gourmet pizza, one of her “favourite things to eat.” The menu is focused on dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. “Our philosophy is to have a menu that changes seasonally and is fun, creative and delicious,” Dobbs says. “When I came back to the city six years ago, I definitely thought the pizza could be taken to a new level. That was really obvious. The face of pizza how we know it is going to change. People are willing to spend a little extra to have a premium pizza product.” In addition to the original Morris Street location, Morris East opened a new Bedford West location in August. Halifax Magazine recently talked with Dobbs about food in the city and her personal tastes.
What is a food trend you would love to see more of in the city?
I think there could be a little more Korean. I personally think French food is going to be really popular for the next year. We are going to go back to serving classic French dishes. I also wish we could offer wine on tap here. I think that’s a great trend, and I think it would be perfect for the local wine industry. It’s more popular in California, Napa, along the West Coast. There are restaurants in New York that would do it, too.
Do you think it’s better than years ago?
I do. There is a culture here of young people who want to open their own places.
How can Halifax encourage that?
I think we actually do a pretty good job…access to capital is pretty good in Halifax… The young people still need to work with chefs. They need to be able to go away to other cities, try food, be inspired and actually practice new techniques and so on. I also think the customer has to be open-minded. If you want people to experiment and play, you have to be open-minded.
Do you think people in Halifax are more open-minded now?
Definitely. Six years ago some people couldn’t get their mind around putting peach on a pizza. You can take them out of their comfort zone to try new things.
What are your favourite restaurants?
I love Edna. I love Fred for sandwiches. I loved Jane’s on the Common and Fid. I also love Cha Baa for Thai. I like the Chinese restaurant 9+ Nine in Clayton Park. It’s really good. Those are probably my go-to places.
What are your favourite spots in the city?
Point Pleasant Park. I do quite a bit of running. I love being able to run so close to the water and being able to see the ocean.
Who in the city do you admire?
I really admire Craig Flinn [chef and co-owner of Chives]. He’s done a great job. I also admire Fred Connors. I think he’s really brave and so hardworking for his business. I think he has vision.
I really admire Renée Lavallée as another women. Jane Wright [owner of the erstwhile Jane’s on the Common] has been a constant inspiration for me, both in terms of her teaching me about superior customer service and the importance of having vision for your food business. She’s built an impressive food business in Halifax and it’s exciting that her daughter Jenna has just opened Edna, becoming a second-generation female restauranteur.
What do you love about the city?
I love the people. I love the customers. Sometimes I think if I was in Toronto the customers could be quite pretentious and it might take away from the interaction whereas here it’s really fun. People are up for a great time. They are gracious. Even though it’s small, it’s still really open-minded.
What would you change about the city?
I think we need 100,000 more people. I think it would make the restaurants busier and it would add vibrancy to the downtown.