Remember Andrew Al-Khouri
? The plucky Cape Bretoner-turned-Haligonian made a splash on Master Chef Canada
in 2015, earning his spot on the airwaves with a no frills
donair gnocchi and tapping out in the top 10. Then, he was a tax officer with a passion for cooking bored by his day job. Now, he’s opening a restaurant.
“I’ve always liked freedom
to be who I want to be and do what I want to do. The worst reality I can think of is one where I have to do one thing for the rest of my life,” says Al-Khouri, who’s operated a catering and private chef service—Zatar Catering
—as a side hustle since competing on the show. But after a couple of years of planning, he’s found a home base for his food. Come
the end of November he’ll debut aFrite
, a 30-seater spot with a small menu at 1360 Lower Water Street, the former Choco Cafe
“It means fried in French, but what it really
is named after is something my mom used to call me when I was kid
. In Arabic
it means shithead, troublemaker, little devil. It’s an endearing term,” he says, with a laugh. “I got all my motivation and inspiration from learning from my mother and seeing her amazing Middle Eastern-style cooking.”
aFrite will have an entirely open kitchen, some communal seating and a chef’s bar and an ever-changing chalkboard menu where each dish and appetizer will have a suggested beer and wine pairing (thanks to sommelier Danny Hewitt
and Tidehouse Brewing Co.
“There is absolutely no genre. People ask what I’ll be serving and I say world fusion which essentially means nothing. And everything. The point is not having restrictions—being a troublemaker,” says Al-Khouri. “If we want to have foie gras one week and spam the next, we will.”
He’ll be a bit of a switch hitter, spending time in the kitchen with chef Pam Eye
but also helping out with service, aiming to provide a dining experience that’s interactive, fun and delicious without abiding by any set-in-stone parameters. And yeah, there’ll probably be some donair gnocchi.
“The idea is to offset what’s already down there with something different,” says Al-Khouri. “It’s built around what I think Halifax needs, which is a little culinary flair.”