Jason Seguin is a caper connoisseur.
Standing in a small corner room — all that remains of Zola’s Café Dore on Main Street — the new business owner held out some of the plump pickled buds on a slim piece of fennel cracker.
“These are better, but you have to try them first because they’re less salty,” said Seguin, bursting with excitement.
“You can taste the flower.”
Next came “the bad ones.”
Definitely saltier, these tiny green guys are available at supermarkets around town.
Seguin’s more savoury capers aren’t.
“But I will be selling them for the same price,” he said.
He also plans to sell salad dressing with essence of grape must, pasta extruded through brass nozzles and tuna in olive oil.
Nestled in the corner of an expanded Board Stiff, Seguin’s Bent Spoon Café will sell coffee — Zola style.
In fact, his barista worked for Zola for years.
“I hired a coffee guru who went through Zola’s boot camp,” he said.
“And what’s a better way to hire someone than to have them serve you coffee for three years.”
So she knows how to the run the shiny red espresso machine Seguin bought from Zola when her café closed.
Seguin’s focus is coffee, he said.
But it’s the gourmet Italian fare that gets him excited.
In a basement storage room are boxes of colourful pasta — some even gluten free — tomatoes canned near Naples, Italy, and savoury oils.
Seguin buys directly from Vancouver suppliers, cutting out a middleman, which helps drop the cost.
“Even with shipping and the fuel surcharge, I don’t have to break the bank to get this stuff,” he said.
Seguin used to bring gourmet Italian provisions north every time he visited Vancouver.
“I just bought them for myself because I love food — I used to bring up all the pasta I needed for the year,” he said, mentioning the pasta created with brass nozzles, instead of Teflon.
The brass nozzle leaves little scratches in the pasta, and these hold the sauce better, said Seguin.
“I am hoping to take the top end out of gourmet food in town.”
Seguin has wanted to open a café since he moved to the Yukon in 2002.
“When I came up I thought, this place needs food,” he said. But finding the right space and the money took time.
Seguin worked as Nakai Theatre’s general manager for more than two years and was general manager for Frostbite Music Festival for another year.
Handling budgets and bookkeeping gave him the practical experience he needed, after completing a business master’s degree in France.
“I’ve been saving up for some food-related opportunity forever,” said Seguin.
Although he’s “not a stock- and-bond person,” Seguin played the market and cashed out when the Bent Spoon opportunity arose.
“I would have cashed out at Christmas, had I known,” he said.
“But how do you know?”
Seguin only plans to sell about 100 specialty items, as well as coffee and baking brought in from Alpine Bakery and Real Foods (run by the former owners of the Bakerei Caffee House).
Real Foods “cakes are amazing,” he said.
The coffee will come from Midnight Sun roasters and Beans North.
Although some of his gourmet items may be available at specialty places, like Riverside Grocery, Seguin isn’t too worried about competition.
“My prices are competitive, while Riverside is more expensive,” he said.
“And that’s understandable because they have big hours, and it’s the only place you can find really good stuff.
“I’m hoping to be the other place.”
In the middle of Seguin’s café, which is still under construction, sits a funky 1970s record console. In the corner is a kitschy table from the 1950s.
These Salvation Army treasures will be part of the retro décor.
The room will be big enough to seat 12, around three tables, and Seguin plans to get a stainless steel elbow bar from Europe, when he can afford it.
“One day a week, I will be serving a coffee that comes with a free biscuit sample,” he said holding out a bag of savoury Italian biscotti.
The café should be open in a week, he said.
It was supposed to open last month, but Seguin shares the same construction crew as the rest of Hougen’s and things slowed down when they discovered the old Taku Hotel wasn’t secured on its foundation, he said.
In the basement, beside the dried oregano still on the stem, skinned roasted peppers in oil and tubes of pesto, was a folded up Golden Girls T-shirt — another Sally Ann find.
He’s saving it for his staff, to add to the café’s atmosphere.
“But don’t worry,” said Seguin. “I’m not using cups and saucers from the Sally Ann, that would be illegal and gross.”
Eventually, Seguin hopes to have time to make food at the Bent Spoon, and maybe even offer up fresh-cut pasta.
“I hope I still have time to cook at home,” he said.