Jason Lougheed said people have questioned him and his partner Allana Ziorjen for starting a takeout business in a pandemic.
The two launched Hunter/Gatherer, a new takeout business out of Minden’s Wintergreen Maple Products in March. The smoker-based establishment serves brisket, meatloaf, and pies made-to-order, with a clothing line to go with it.
Ziorjen said the pair have known each other for a long time and reconnected recently over a mutual love of barbecuing. The takeout idea unfolded quickly, and they got a business licence in November. The location came about because Ziorjen has worked at Wintergreen periodically for 17 years.
“Everything just kind of came together beautifully,” she said. “The beauty of this is we’ve been able to set it up in the midst of the pandemic. So, we’ve been able to tailor how we operate to the rules.”
“Everybody thinks we’re crazy,” Lougheed said. “And it makes sense. We are crazy.”
The service currently only operates one day a week on Friday, though plans to expand to lunch service on the weekends over the summer. It also planned to be out of a food truck on Easter weekend, though the provincial shutdown April 3 dashed those plans.
The business centers around the barbecue and brisket specialty, which Lougheed said requires 12 hours to cook using a smoker. They said they are looking to introduce it to the area and elevate more homely dishes such as meatloaf.
“People in this area aren’t as familiar with what brisket is because it’s more of a southern thing,” Ziorjen said. “It kind of changes barbecuing because it is such a long process.”
Wintergreen owner Tom Dawson said the relationship is a way to maximize the operation.
“We have facilities, they have skills and we’re trying to put them together,” Dawson said. “Very symbiotic relationship … In one essence, we’re trying to put wind under their wings.”
Lougheed said the Hunter/Gatherer name came from their philosophy on food and the community. He said they want to use locally-sourced products as much as possible.
“Our brand is we just kind of do what we have to do to get by. We use what’s readily available to us,” Lougheed said. “We are survivors.”
Ziorjen said they have kept a slow, but steadily increasing pace – 20 meals on a first week and more than doubling that over Easter weekend.
“I have been blown away,” Lougheed said. “It’s great. Everybody seems to be just loving it.”
The two are unsure of the long-term future, with their own building a pipedream. For now, they are taking it one summer at a time.
“The restaurant industry right now is so unstable. We’re coming in at a really interesting time where we’re able to sort of adapt,” Ziorjen said.
“We have to be realistic about what will happen in the next few years, with the restaurant industry as it is.” The service is available at huntergatherfood.com