Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

The Bees Knees – Jessi Gillis and Highland Drive

28 Jul

Question: What do you get when you combine an entrepreneurial spirit, fresh local ingredients, and a swipe of red lipstick?

Answer: Jessi Gillis, owner and head chef at Highland Drive, and the best new thing on the Halifax catering scene.

Offering culinary lessons, catered meals, or even the opportunity to have a private chef for the evening, Jessi is living proof that food can be fresh, fun, and exciting. After attending one of Jessi’s events, we had to know more about who she was, where she came from, and what makes her tick (apart from whipping up some of the tastiest dishes you ever did eat – mini chocolate-chip cherry-ice cream sandwiches anyone?).

ThisNeedsToStop: How did you get started in the culinary business?

Jessi Gillis:  Not sure if this counts but I started working at MacDonalds when I was 14 (and loved it). I gave out far too many free ice creams and had a great time. A few months later as soon when I turned 15, I started as a hostess at a busy high-end restaurant in Vancouver called Settebello’s. They had an open concept kitchen and I found myself spending much more time talking to the cooks and asking to make my own staff meal than paying attention to my front of house duties. We then moved to Halifax where I started dishwashing and food prepping at Deco. I then went on to attend culinary school at George Brown in Toronto and also did a Post Graduate Diploma in Italian Culinary Arts.  I’ve never been happier than when I am in the kitchen creating dishes and playing with flavours. I also love to see people smile after they have eaten something I’ve cooked them, I like the thought of spreading joy through food!

TNTS: What made you come back to Halifax?

JG: I love Halifax. Halifax has amazing community support, great farmers (selection for local seasonal ingredients), local wineries, beer producers and the most important people in my life – my family and friends. I couldn’t imagine trying to start a business somewhere else. There is so much support here. People want to see small business thrive.

TNTS: What is the scariest thing about starting your own business?

JG: I would say being in full control, and understanding that it’s a constant learning process. It’s scary to think that I’m the one controlling the gears… That’s also exciting though because it’s a constant push. I also worry about people enjoying my food and my customer service. I am my biggest critic and it is incredibly important to me that all my clients feel as though they were given 150%, walk away happy and full!

TNTS: Where does the name ‘Highland Drive’ come from?

JG: I am in love with the 1940’s 1950’s era and I was looking at names from around that time to call my business. My good friend suggested I look at old street names from the 1950’s for inspiration. My grandparents lived on the street Highland Drive in Antigonish N.S. and built their house in the 1950’s on that street. I loved the idea of having them be a part of the name because all my great first kitchen memories come from eating with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles at 63 Highland Drive. I want my food to reflect on that idea. When you eat it should be comfortable, happy and a memorable experience.

TNTS: What are some of your career aspirations?

JG: I would love to own a small restaurant called Highland Drive (around 35 seats with a small seasonal patio) and have a sister butcher shop. I think that butcher shops and restaurants pair very nicely, and this way I would be able to utilize and showcase locally the meat producers of Nova Scotia.

TNTS: Who is your favourite celebrity chef?

JG: Living? I would say Anthony Bourdain. I love that he eats everything and never turns down an adventure. He is also a great writer not just cookbook wise but writes fiction and non-fiction. I respect him because even as a celebrity chef it doesn’t seem like he craves the spotlight. Deceased? Julia Child.

TNTS: What is your favourite thing to eat?

JG: This might sound cliché but I really love food from all origins. It really depends on the day and how I am feeling. I eat arugula on almost everything but I don’t think that counts as a favorite food because I couldn’t just eat arugula.

TNTS: What is your favourite drink?

JG: Negroni Sbagliato, an Italian aperitif.  1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce dry Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth, 1 ounce Dry Spumante (Prosseco) Orange Slice for garnish and a cerignola olive (Large green light tasting olive, pit in) serve in tumbler with ice. This is an amazing drink. It is bitter, fresh and incredibly addictive. Most people will have trouble with their first, but after will crave the taste again. Beautiful on a hot summer day paired with cured meats and cheeses.

TNTS: Where do you go in Halifax when you’re in the mood for a delicious treat?

JG: For restaurant, that has yet to be decided. I have too many restaurants to eat through first before I decide. But I do love Deedee’s Ice Cream. It’s amazing! (http:/deedees.ca)

TNTS: Who would you love to cook for?

JG: My grandparents. Since the age of 14 I have dreamed of becoming a chef, and from the moment I began talking about it and playing around in the kitchen my grandparents were incredibly supportive. I would be love to have them back just for a day so that I could thank them for their belief, support and inspiration with a nice family meal.

TNTS: If you could be anything other than a chef what would you be?

JG: A farmer/hair dresser. I know that’s an odd mix but I would love to have an old farm with a few livestock and rotating crop fields. I have worked on farms, and really enjoy the solitude and hard work. It is also so rewarding to actually harvest something you’ve planted and see what you can make from it. Hair dresser because I love creating with my hands and I think that is a great avenue for creative expression.

TNTS: Last but not least, what do you think is the bees knees?

JG: Pearls, lady-like dresses, and red lipstick!

Follow Jessi on twitter: @jessigillis

Check out her blog: http://freshflavoursmadefromtheheart.blogspot.com/


Fur your Mewsing – Inside the cat show

14 Apr

As previously reported the 42nd Annual Bluenose Cat Club Cat show recently took place. Naturally we had to go to see what the fuss was about. So along with our lovely friend Ben ( Of No Ordinary Roller coaster fame) we went boldly where (we think) no local bloggers have gone before.

Every preconceived notion of what to expect at a cat show was true and then some. Even days after the event we are having a hard time wrapping our heads around what we witnessed. Bald cats, awesome cats, leopard cats, cat outfits that not even your most cutting edge Northern Getaway outfitter could not have imagined. This was hands down the best 5 bucks we’ve spent in a while.

The show was held in a large room with show rings lining the outer walls, and rows of various cats in the middle of the room. Each cat was accompanied with their owners who ranged from little kids to 42 year cat show veterans.

As we walked through the various isles filled with cats we attempted to make contact with some owners. Little did we know our NYC Cat Judge inspired outfits did not bode well with attendants. We stuck out like sore thumbs and just like the siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp we were snubbed. Did we want to talk to the lady with the wicked cool Abbysinian cat with an amazing show cage? Of course we did. But alas, she wanted nothing to do with us.

We figured it was best to take a lap, see what was what and then settle into a judging ring to learn the inner workings of this world.

Fiercely real plus size model. I can has cheezeburger?

Cat judge shows off the beautiful Abyssinian.

Eventually we cornered international cat judge Ron Summers. Ron – who oddly enough is allergic to cats – has been judging cat shows for over 20 years and came from Indiana to judge this particular event. We had a lot of questions for Ron and thankfully he took us under his wing and taught us a thing or two to prevent further embarassment at future cat shows.

Ron Summers - International cat show judge

We mentioned our “orange tabby” Freddie to Ron to break the ice. He looked at us as if we had showed up late for a go-see on America’s Next Top Model and said “No…..no..those don’t exist. I think you mean red. You have a red and cream tabby. And by the way there are no such thing as grey cats. Only blue.” Well now we know.

Rons love for judging cats inspired me to take a look into the rules and regulations and what exactly makes for a great looking cat. I think we owe it to our readers to take a harsh look at our very own Freddie and see just how he would match up against the most fierce competition.

Because Freddie is an adopted cat we had to do some preliminary research on what kind of cat he is. After much investigation we came to learn Freddie is a Siberian Red Tabby.

We judged Freddie based on the following CFA categories:
*Please click photos below to enlarge*


Shape – 15 points
Profile – 3 points
Ears – 5 points
Eyes – 5 points
Chin – 4 points
Muzzle – 10 points
Neck – 3 points

Freddie’s Total: 45 / 45


Torso – 10 points
Legs – 5 points
Feet – 3 points
Tail – 5 points

Freddie’s Total: 20 / 23 (Deductions for length of tail.)


Length – 5 points
Texture – 5 points
Pattern – 5 points
Colour – 5 points

Freddie’s Total: 20 / 20

No score but pleasant cats win hearts.

Freddie’s score: Winning 100% of hearts since 2010.

Freddie’s overall score: 85 / 88

Unfortunately genetics have dealt Freddie an unlucky card costing him any chance of winning Top Siberian Cat at the 43rd Annual Bluenose Cat Club Cat Show. In this category Freddie would be….disqualified. For what you ask? EXTRA THUMBS. Freddie’s winning assets actually cost him elimination in our mock judging. Lucky for him he can enter in the domestic house cat category and likely crush the competition.

Needless to say the 42nd Annual Bluenose Cat Club Cat Show was quite the experience. We had our eyes opened to world we only thought existed. And beyond the lack of cat fashion show, we give this cat show 0 thumbs up. Because if we gave it two we’d be disqualified.

Searching for Randall Kennedy

21 Feb

Last week it was brought to our attention that Halifax Magazine had done an article on acclaimed elevator inspector Randall Kennedy titled “The Guy Behind the Signature”. To our surprise Randall Kennedy is a name everyone knows, yet very few speak of. But once this floodgate was opened we were a tad jealous we didn’t break the story first.

While we applaud Halifax Magazine for finding the Santa Claus of elevators.. we just have so many more questions to ask him.

So in an effort to bring to light one of Halifax’s most elusive figures, I sent Randall an email.

Now I must admit that in writing the email, I was caught up in a moment of excitement. It was not my finest piece of writing, nor least creepy. But the damage is done and it’s sitting in his in-box waiting to be read and hopefully not marked as spam.

So I share with you, the highly embarrassing letter to Randall Kennedy, elevator inspector extraordinaire.

We hope that Randall will find it in his heart to chat with us at TNTs and answer some of the questions that have been going up and down in our minds.

Good Afternoon Mr. Kennedy,

I’m writing to you after reading a recent article in Halifax Magazine “The Man Behind the Signature”. Your name has been engrained in my mind since I moved to Nova Scotia as a kid. I remember taking the elevator to ballet classes in Sunnyside Mall and seeing your neatly signed name on the wall.

Myself along with 3 other Haligonias have a pop culture blog titled “This Needs to Stop” (www.thisneedstostop.com) with a feature called “The Bees Knees”. We would love to feature you and was curious if you had the time to answer a couple of questions! (We can send them via email if you’d like!)
Thank you for your time,

The Bees Knees: The Halifax Oval

27 Jan

Since the Oval opened to the public this winter it has been the talk of the town. Thousands of people have flocked to the outdoor rink to spend some quality time outside with their friends and family. So the gang at This Needs to Stop dropped by to check out what the fuss was about.

As a group of young professionals caught in that awkward time of your life where you don’t know if you should be doing Jagerbombs at The Dome or knitting socks for your unborn children, The Oval was a welcomed age neutral activity.

The atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone was having a great time (despite being out-skated by six year olds) and there were no bad apples trying to spoil the fun for everyone.

Most importantly all of this fun was being had in the heart of the city. Other parts of the country  have long since embraced the Canadian tradition of outdoor skating rinks in their downtown cores. The idea of sipping hot chocolate and laughing with your friends while being outside is just enough to get us through these long winter months.

So that being said, we think the Halifax Oval is The Bees Knees and we’d love to see it stick around.

Check out savetheoval.ca to learn more!