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Hidden Haligonians: Audrey Duggan

She didn't choose catering—it chose her.

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From Maine to jane's. - RILEY SMITH
  • Riley Smith
  • From Maine to jane's.

Audrey Duggan is currently on staff at jane's on Gottingen Street, but her history in the catering industry involves dishing out food for the likes of Martha Stewart and NHL hall-of-famers.

Between semesters of studying art in Maine, Duggan decided to apply for a position at a ranch in Colorado at the encouragement of her roommate. She was just looking for a summer job. What she got was a trial by fire in commercial cooking.

"I wanted to be a housekeeper, cause that's all I was qualified for, and they hired me as the head cook," says Duggan. The person who interviewed her for the job had told her: "I've got a feeling about you. I think it's gonna work."

After two weeks of training, Duggan became responsible for the meals of the ranch guests and staff. She had such a great time that she returned to the position every summer for the rest of college. Upon graduation, Duggan decided the creative skills from her art degree might be more employable through the culinary industry.

She took on a variety of jobs in the catering business, and at 23, she became co-owner of a company called Belle Fete.

"We really wanted to take it to the next level and do something really custom for each client," she says. "No standardized menus and all of that stuff."

At the time, the custom catering Duggan's company provided wasn't very common, so she found herself in-demand—even making charcuterie for events at Martha Stewart's summer home. In Duggan's experience, high-profile clients sometimes meant performing tasks outside of her job description.

"One afternoon, I spent like the whole day driving around trying to find Spanx for one of Steven Tyler's dancers," she recalls.

Despite her love for the trade, Duggan got tired of working 120 hours a week. She'd also fallen in love with a Nova Scotian social worker named Colin.

"The only way he could see me when we first started dating was for him to come work weddings with me on the weekends," she says, "so I've made my husband a caterer."

The pair ended up leaving the United States for Ottawa, where Duggan was hired at Tulips and Maple Catering. There, she ended up doing work for governor general Michaëlle Jean and even the King of Austria Karl von Habsburg, grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor.

"I totally splashed soup on him, too," says Duggan. "I can sell great events but I can't, like, pass the tray."

The couple came to Halifax just over two years ago. As Duggan works to get her permanent Canadian residency, she's a managing consultant at jane's along with helping her husband get started on sea-salt farming. While Duggan is not exactly serving royalty here, she isn't complaining, calling Jane Wright "a visionary."

"I just want to make sure everything we do here keeps her proud," she says, "cause it is ballsy to put your name on a business."

RILEY SMITH
  • riley smith
Note: An earlier version of the article referred to Audrey Duggan serving "the King of Austria." That was not his proper title and it has been corrected.

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