Resolution Series: Home
RESOLUTION SERIES: NEW HOME
A VISIT WITH MATT + SEAN
RESTAURANT OWNERS OF THE BIRDS & THE BEETS and HUNNYBEE BRUNCHEONETTE
In our latest home shoot, we capture a typical day at home for Matt and Sean – Vancouver restaurant owners of The Birds + The Beets and Hunnybee Bruncheonette. As local entrepreneurs who live and work together, we asked them a few questions about their home lifestyle and daily routines, balancing work and play and their big plans in 2019.
Q: What are your favourite features of your home? A favourite room?
A: When Matt and his family were looking at the home to buy years ago, it was the kitchen that made him fall in love. It has a beautiful old oven and original cabinetry plus it has more space than either of us has ever had in previous homes. We had big dreams of cooking at home all the time until we opened the restaurant and then our time was spent in that kitchen!
I personally love the front sunroom – it used to be our bedroom which was lovely but it was so cold in the winter and bright in the summer. Now we’ve transformed it into a sitting room which is much more suiting for us. We call it the indoor patio, we open up the windows and watch the bike lane – it’s perfect for the chilly nights in the spring and fall when the outdoor patio isn’t as popular.
Q: What kind of daily routines do you have?
A: These days it’s all about our new puppy! We’re trying to integrate more family time into our lives now there is someone else that needs our attention. We both wake up early then one of us takes Lucky to the park or beach and the other pops into one or both of the restaurants. Matt usually has Lucky ride along with him in the car as he does the daily errands. We both try to be home in the afternoon for tea and puppy play time. For dinner, we sometimes walk to somewhere in Chinatown or cook something simple at home.
Q: What is your favourite meal to eat at home?
A: If I’m cooking it’s always something light and (somewhat) healthy, it’s usually different variations of grain bowls, salads or stews. Matt will make his favourite risotto or a lasagna every once in a while when we’re feeling more decadent and we have the time.
Q: Do you entertain at home? How do you use the space?
A: A lot of our close friends live in the neighbourhood so they’ll often pop by for some wine and snacks or a barbeque in the summer. In the winter, we cozy up in the living room which is conveniently connected to the kitchen. But when it’s nice out we always gravitate to the back deck or our solarium (indoor patio) to soak up the late sunset in the summer. We have an open door policy at our house, all our friends know they are always welcome to pop in if they hear voices on the patio.
Q: How do you find time and energy to do all that you do and finding balance between professional and personal life?
A: For a long time we didn’t! Work was our whole life but luckily we got to spend a lot of time doing it together. It worked for us because we both were so invested in the same projects. Now the businesses have been open for a few years and it’s starting to take a toll on our health. So we are trying to make more conscious choices with our time and give our employees more opportunity to take on responsibilities. When we rescued our puppy last month it was a huge game changer, it turns out it’s easier said than done until there is actually something important to care for.
Q: Do you have any big plans for your home in 2019?
A: To spend more time in it! This christmas we spent so much time at home for the first time ever and we realized how much more homey it feels when you take the time to nest. We moved in 4 years ago but we were always at the restaurants so we never really settled until recently. We want to do some finishing touches on the interior but our big project for the spring is to redo our back deck, build in more comfortable seating and add lots of planters for a backyard garden. We’ve always had a table and chairs by the barbeque but we want to maximize the space so we can have more people over this coming summer as well as be able to lounge a bit and read in the sun. A backyard oasis is the goal!
Apart from their daily routines, we got to ask them more about their restaurants, the inspiration behind their dishes and their next steps as business owners in the new year. The Birds + The Beets is a quiet cafe located in Gastown, Vancouver that serve their creative takes on avocado toast, healthy lunch bowls and artisan sandwiches. Located in Vancouver’s Chinatown on the corner of Union and Gore Ave, Hunnybee Bruncheonette offers a unique twist on brunch items with Ricotta Pancakes, Shakshuka and Rose and Coconut Muesli.
Q: Can you tell us about your choice to make mostly in-house dishes with local ingredients?
A: It wasn’t really set in stone when we first opened, but it very quickly became apparent that we could do just about everything at a higher quality than what we could outsource. We want to provide affordable meals to our customers so they have good, nourishing breakfasts and lunches every day of their week without question about the value of what they’re getting. By making everything in house, although more labour intensive, we can purchase higher quality ingredients and still price things affordably. Our margins on food are extremely slim, which was a risky choice when we opened but our plan was always that eventually the volume would be enough that it would be worth it and we were right! I think our food is the type of stuff you feel good eating, so it keeps our people coming back.
Q: You’ve helped nurture other talents by hosting pop ups – Can you tell us about that?
A: We always wanted to make Birds a day to night business since we got the space, Gastown is more known for its night scene so it seemed like a waste to have the doors closed at night. That being said we are not night people, we are good at what we do in the day but we couldn’t stretch ourselves more to make a good evening environment as well. We hosted a few different pop-ups, but more recently Juice Bar, which was originally just Wednesday night, has become a permanent wine bar in the back room at Birds Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Our friend, Sion, who is a the natural wine expert, runs the bar and curates the wines so it’s very much its’ own vibe that feels different than the same space you might have had breakfast or lunch. We have done the same thing at Hunnybee, where our evening service is called Soap and run by a friend and talented bartender. We like the transforming of the spaces from day to night, it makes us want to hang out there even though we’ve been there working all day – you almost forget what the place is in the day time.
Q: What’s inspired you to create the dishes you make?
A: We just try things we think will be good, often something that we think is missing from our menu. Birds started as sandwiches and salads, then we grew into breakfast. Our Miso Barley Bowl changed the game and we realized how there was a huge gap in the market for filling, healthy and satisfying lunches that aren’t bread-based. We always are changing and trying new things but also keeping the favourites reliable. We opened Hunnybee so we could really go wild and play with our brunch ideas in a more slow paced, sit-down neighbourhood space.
Q: Can you tell us about the dishes you made during our visit?
A: Both are from Hunnybee – the Miso Farro Bowl is similar to the Barley Bowl at Birds. It has greens, farro (a whole grain with an amazing texture and chew), our famous miso vinaigrette dressing and seasonal house pickled and roasted veggies. It comes with an egg, tofu, avocado, or any combination of the above. The Lox and Labneh toast is simple but delicious for breakfast or lunch. It is made with housemate sourdough, lemon cured salmon lox, labneh (a strained yogurt, similar to cream cheese but more tart) and celeriac slaw.
Q: What inspires you to do what you do?
A: Creating spaces that have become so adopted by the community has been a very cool experience. It’s an amazing feeling to sit and see all the people that have our places be part of their daily or weekly routine. I feel like these places are very much everyone’s not just ours anymore, they operate as part of a much larger picture and more people than I will every know have a feeling of ownership over them. I love when I overhear people introducing it to someone as “their” spot. It’s pretty meta. I guess we wanted to fill a void in the city and make comfortable spaces to provide comforting food and drinks but when it’s actually become its own being it gets us excited to push it more and see what else we can do in those spaces.
Q: Any big plans for 2019?
A: Last year was big for the businesses, so this year is all about getting both places running smoothly and making more room for personal life in our schedule, mostly spending lots of time with our new dog. More exciting plans include getting married at the end of the year or early next, if we ever get around to wedding planning…
We want to thank Matt and Sean for welcoming us into their home, it was a pleasure shooting with them and getting to know more about their daily routines at home and at work. With continuous growth and success, we are excited for whats to come for them in the new year.
Creative Director — Kelly Lee + Nicola Fuller
Photographer — Maria Lang
Stylist — Marchel Eang
Featured Restaurant Owners — Matt Senecal-Junkeer + Sean Cunningham
Hair / Makeup — Gemma Kim