Chef Dan Vorstermans enjoys finding beauty in Nova Scotia’s produce and bringing it to his guest’s plates. “I’m trying to show people the really great things that are coming out of Nova Scotia,” says Vorstermans, co-owner of Field Guide and Highwayman in Halifax.
Vorstermans began cooking in high school after becoming vegetarian. “I was still living with my parents and my mom said ‘that’s great, but you are going to have to cook for yourself because I’m not going to cook a separate meal for you every night,’” he recalls. Although being a vegetarian didn’t stick, the experience made him think more about animal rights and the environmental and social impacts of food. His culinary career began with a job at a small bar in Ottawa Ont., to help pay for university. “Everyone wants a job that doesn’t feel like a job, so I thought if I love doing this so much, maybe if I did it for a job it would be just as fun,” says Vorstermans. “I immediately fell in love with it and never considered doing anything else after that. It felt like the right thing.” Vorstermans then moved to Halifax to work at Chives, a contemporary dining room with a focus on seasonally inspired Canadian cuisine. He also worked at a butcher shop, a charcuterie shop, and Morris East — a neighbourhood restaurant serving local, artisanal Nova Scotian products.
In 2014, he and partner Ceilidh Southerland opened their first restaurant, Field Guide, in Halifax. The pair then partnered with Adam MacLeod and Michael Hopper for the 2016 launch of Highwayman. Field Guide is a local restaurant with a menu featuring all Nova Scotia has to offer, while Highwayman boasts a Spanish-inspired menu using products imported from Spain, including cured meats, olives and olive oil. “With both places, the idea is sourcing really good quality ingredients and, as much as possible, letting them speak for themselves,” says Vorstermans.
Field Guide is known for its dedication to supporting local farmers and producers. The menu is seasonal and changes frequently but one of its signature dishes is the Donair Steam Bun, a take on the classic Halifax Donair ($10), as well as a cheese and cured-meats board ($30).
In 2016, Highwayman was ranked number nine on enRoute Magazine’s Canada’s Best New Restaurants. “To be on that list, after seeing so many restaurants that I look up to, have been to and really love, was great,” he says.
Vorstermans plans to continue growing the restaurants and add new ones along the way. “For me, the most exciting process is coming up with the concept for a restaurant. Seeing that come to completion and then seeing the idea going from just being an idea on paper to being a functioning restaurant is amazing,” he says.
Volume 50, Number 2
Written by Emilie Bell