By David Holmes, contributor
When you’re a former roller-derby competitor - and an ex-outreach worker - what career path should you take?
If you’re Jenny Smart, the owner of Esquimalt’s Bunny’s Kitchen, you open a restaurant.
“I’ve always really loved cooking and people kept telling me, ‘It would be so nice if you had a little café’ – so it was very much a personal love that grew into this business,” Smart explained.
“I’ve always loved feeding people. I love seeing people’s reactions and I love making food so it all just came together.”
Located at 904 B Esquimalt Rd., Bunny’s Kitchen opened in November 2019 with the goal of producing quality, healthy “grab-and-go” food for customers on a tight schedule. While there is limited seating in the eatery, the bulk of the operation’s trade is devoted to take-out service.
“I used to be involved in competitive roller derby and my persona, my stage name was ‘Psycho Bunny’ and a lot of people continued to call me Bunny even after I left the sport, so when I opened this business, I just kept it going,” she said.
Without formal culinary training, yet with a passion for producing food that was both healthy and flavourful, Smart realized she could turn that desire into a viable business.
“A lot of it came from feeding my kids. Growing up I didn’t eat a lot of vegetables,” Smart said. “We lived off KD and Mr. Noodle, so after learning more about nutrition and how food is a medicine I wanted to get as many vegetables into my kids as possible. People would then say that Bunny is the perfect name for a restaurant as bunnies eat vegetables.”
True to its name, the menu at Bunny’s Kitchen is heavy on fresh salads (including distinctive made in-house dressings), sandwiches, breakfast bowls, wraps and various vegan options. While she had worked for 20 years in various pubs and restaurants her experience was always “front of house” interacting with the customers, but never with the actual food preparation.
“For about five years before opening the restaurant I worked as an outreach worker, and while I loved it the stress of the job took its toll. Trying to deal with all the problems of society had an impact, I was fighting off panic attacks all the time, so I eventually went on stress leave – that time away is when the opportunity to open the restaurant happened,” she explained.
Very much a family business as both her son and daughter work in the operation part of the time, her next challenge will be finding a new location as she has been made aware that her present site is slated for redevelopment in about a year and half.
“There might be an option to come back into this space after the renovations, but I would really like to see us move into a proper space where I can carry out some of the expansion ideas I have. But that’s still in the future,” she said.