Tiffin Project

Profile | Mary MacIntyre

by admin on June 14, 2007

mary macintyre of little nest

Recently, Urban Diner’s Paul Kamon had a chat with The Little Nest’s mother, Mary MacIntyre, about her new “parent friendly cafe” just off Commercial Drive in East Vancouver.

Urban Diner: How did you start in the restaurant business?
Mary MacIntyre:
At the bottom and I worked my way up. I worked front of house for 9 years in Australia and the UK.Then I went to cooking school 7 years ago and started at the bottom all over again. I went from being a restaurant manager to peeling potatoes. It was very humbling.

UD: Any learned advice for an aspiring restauranteur?
MM:
Delegate. When I first started planning my business I envisioned myself doing everything. But It’s just not humanly possible. Find good people to do the things you can’t and duly reward them.

UD: What is an important detail about running a ‘kid-friendly’ restaurant that should always be remembered, but is often forgotten?
MM:
Cleanliness. Keep the place clean.

UD: How did you come up with the concept for Little Nest?
MM:
I had always planned to open a neighbourhood cafe. The style is very Melbournian (where I am from in Australia). A place that serves good food, good coffee in a space that is relaxed, personal and kind of idiosyncratic. Then I had kids. As a foody and frequenter of cafes I suddenly felt very limited. Every parent I spoke to felt the same way. So I started thinking I should make my cafe kid-friendly. It works because my own kids can visit me. We have dinner together at Little Nest every night. It’s our home away from home. That, for me, is the essence of hospitality; welcoming someone into your space and treating them to food cooked with love and care.

UD: How did you choose the neighbourhood and location for Little Nest?
MM:
It’s my neighbourhood, it’s close knit, diverse, vibrant and full of families. The location worked for me because it is close to the ‘parental hub’ of Commercial Drive. It is big enough to accommodate kids, parents and those without kids too. The space has had a history of businesses that didn’t work so I thought long and hard. My husband, Phi and I gave it a bit of a face lift and really tried to change the energy of the space.

UD: What has been the biggest challenge so far with your business?
MM:
Time. As a parent I never get enough time. I work 12-14 hour days, six days a week while Phi takes care of the kids. The biggest challenge is making sure we all feel loved and stay connected.

UD: If a kid is screaming his head off and disturbing the other little ‘diners’, how would you respond?
MM:
I would usually let the parent take care of the situation. If I really felt the need to step in I would always assume positive intent where kids are involved. I find a bit of playfulness and empathy usually does the trick with most kids.

UD: Any particular toy you are looking for to add to the collection?
MM:
The Vintage Fisher Price Garage. It’s a classic.

UD: If you were 5 years old again, describe your ultimate kid’s meal…
MM:
Little Nest’s Mac and Cheese. It’s infused with carrots and cauliflower!! Yet it just looks like orange cheese. Mark(our chef) is a genius!

UD: Other than your own, what 5 restaurants you would recommend for a cross-section of the best kid friendly dining in Vancouver?
MM: Nha Trang Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway, near Fraser.
Floata for DimSum on Keefer in Chinatown.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company in Kits.
Cafe du Soleil and Cafe deux Soleil are both very welcoming.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Yoo June 15, 2007 at 4:15 pm

I really admire what Mary MacIntyre is doing with “The Little Nest”. For years I answered the question “Why don’t you have high chairs?” with “Children hardly eat, they don’t consume alcohol, and they don’t tip.” I always thought it was the responsibility of those massive deep-pocketed chain restaurants to provide children friendly dining with all their excess square footage, while I tried to eke out a meagre living out of a space with the seeming capacity of a shoebox. It is with great chagrin that I recall my greedy arrogance as I now see that children are rarely welcome anywhere, even in those gigantic money – making franchises. As truly needed as they are, child- friendly restaurants are scarce in this city. Understandably so, as every seat in a licenced restaurant is prime real estate, but I can fully appreciate the angst of my friends who won’t even try to bring their children (no matter how well behaved they are) to a public eatery because they could do without the shunning.

So, many kudos to Mary MacIntyre, who seems more about the hospitality, the food and the love that truly builds a great neighborhood place that you’ll want to visit regularly.

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