To tell the story of Fid, one must go back to the beginning. Dennis Johnston grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but was born in England. He liked Halifax; he had sampled its universities, skateboarded on its streets, but, he needed an adventure. So he travelled back to his birthplace to seek his fame and fortune. But he didn’t find it was a delivery man at Harrods, or as a member of an underground renovation crew. Then he figured out that fame and fortune wasn’t what he was looking for: it was food. Dennis got a culinary apprenticeship. For two years he immersed himself in French classical cuisine. Anton Mosimann taught him the fine art of the ‘organized plate’. The Roux brothers revealed the secret to perfect pastry. A stint with a Japanese chef exposed him to the world of fresh fish and swift filleting. But, Canada called. In 1980 he packed his bags and moved to Montréal.
The 1980’s were an interesting time in the Montréal restaurant scene: local chefs were breaking into what was traditionally a European dominated industry. Quebecois growers, farmers and cheese makers were gaining notoriety. The ‘organized plate’ was broken down. ‘Beauty’ was found ‘in the absence of perfection’. Dennis was ready for it. He got a job at Les Halles, working under the wing of Chef Jean Pierre Monnet, a ‘nutbar of a chef who made cakes from seaweed’. He became Dennis’ biggest mentor.
Meanwhile, there lived a woman named Monica Bauché. She was tired of France and was in search of a new home. She threw darts at the map and ended up in Montréal. Monica had worked in PR in Europe, but had to retrain in her new country. So, she decided to try something new: restaurant management. This direction took her to the restaurant Les Halles, where chef Monnet was at the helm.
Chef Monnet left Les Halles to start his own restaurant, Les Mignardises, and took Dennis with him. ‘Les mignardise’ means ‘small sweets’ in French. Perhaps the name set the tone; soon Dennis and Monica met and started dating. It was a sweet coup de foudre.
After twenty years, many mentors, friendships and culinary awakenings, the pair thought is was time for a change. Dennis and Monica wanted a better quality of life. They wanted a restaurant they could operate together. They wanted a few dogs. They moved to Halifax in 1999.
When Fid opened ten years ago, the space resembled a clean, white canvas; the art was the food – vibrant, bold, local food. It was radical. Eating locally and seasonally was just a seed of an idea in Halifax. Over the past ten years many things have happened. Their restaurant has a new look. They’ve become great friends with their growers, suppliers and diners. Dennis became a regular at the Halifax Farmer’s Market. He’ll say all the local produce at hand once made him feel like a kid in a candy shop. But not anymore. Eating locally and seasonally is now ubiquitous in Halifax; he has to share.
Dennis and Monica live on the edge of Chocolate lake. Their home has two dachshunds, sunshine and lots of cookbooks. Dennis’ motorcycle and Monica’s velo solex take them to Fid. The drive meanders along the sparkling Northwest Arm, passes the bobbing sailboats then shoots straight through the centre of town. It takes 7 minutes.
By definition, a fid (noun): is a round, cone-shaped wooden tool for separating the strands of a rope in splicing. At Fid, it’s the flavours, tastes and textures that are spliced and woven together. The result is a mélange of Dennis and Monica’s adventures thus far: the menu is usually part Nova Scotian, part Quebecois, part organized, part deconstructed, part Asian, part ocean, part land, and part nutbar.
Since our opening in December 2000, FID has been dedicated to the use and promotion of local, organic and virtually organic, and sustainably harvested food products and produce. Below is a list of suppliers and foragers that we work with continually. Without them we don’t exist!
- Ted Hutten of Hutten Family Farm
- Norbert Kungl of Selwood Green
- Ruth and Paul Colville of Coldspring Farm
- Randy Hiltz of Ran-Cher Acres Farm
- Bill Wood of Wood ‘n Heart Farm
- Mike Oulton Quality Meats
- A.C. Covert Ltd.
- Sambro Fisheries Ltd.
- Acadian Sea Plants Limited
- Comeau Seafoods Ltd.
- Judy and Jim Bruce of River View Herbs Ltd.
- Hanspeter Stutz of Grand Pre Winery
- Gaspereau Vineyards
- Ed Folks (forager extrordinaire)
- Maureen Legg of Little Dorset Farm
- Tap Root Farm
- Boulangerie La Vendeenne
- Greg at Elmridge Farm Ltd.
- Richard and Juanita Rand of Foxhill Cheese
- Manfred Bauer of Roselane Farm
- The Grainery Food Coop