Eskasoni café aims to serve community by dishing up healthier options
'I want to be that person that can offer something that'll help heal you'
This story is part of a series from CBC's Eskasoni Community Bureau, based out of the Sarah Denny Cultural Centre. This series comes from weeks of conversations with community members about what they feel is important to see, hear and read on CBC's platforms.
A Cape Breton restaurateur wants to boost the health of her community one plate at a time.
Kateri Stevens and her fiancé, Antle Marshall, opened Sequoia's Café in Eskasoni, N.S., late last month.
The newly constructed eatery features menu items such as chicken wraps, egg-white omelettes, a smoothie bar and green leafy salads.
Stevens believes what you're eating translates into how you're feeling.
"I want to be that person that can offer something that'll help heal you — something that will give you energy," she said. "Something that will make you feel good about yourself."
Stevens and her partner saw a business opportunity to create their café on Mini Mall Drive and began planning about a year ago.
The mother-of-four said people in Eskasoni typically have higher than normal rates of illness such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
And too often, she said, people are trading health for convenience.
"We live in a busy world," Stevens said. "People are working hard, you know, it's easier just to grab a bag of chips, but why not be that support person?"
Inspired by father's cancer battle
Although the café is named after her daughter, one of Stevens' biggest inspirations is her father, who is fighting an aggressive cancer.
"He's been battling it for three to four years," Stevens said. "When he was actually on his death bed and preparing to go, we switched up his diet with foods that were cancer-eating types of foods."
Stevens said the diet shakeup has helped her father survive the disease. Now, she's hoping and wishing that the café's homemade meals extend the lives of many throughout the Eskasoni community.
"I want to see my children live longer," she said. "I want to create a healthier new generation where life expectancy increases. I just realized how important this type of thing was in my community."
'We have traditions, we have culture'
Stevens, who is a Mi'kmaw woman, said her culture plays an important role in the café. For that reason, she hung Indigenous artwork across its walls.
"My business inside is designed to have a Mi'kmaw cultural look," Stevens said.
"I wanted people to feel like home and if a non-native person came to my community, I wanted them to experience what we had to offer.
"We're authentic, we have traditions, we have culture, we have history. And people want to learn about that because it's been brushed aside for so long."
Stevens said she hopes to inspire others in the community who are interested in starting a business or following their dreams.
"I'm hoping that my youth catch on, and see like, 'Wow, this is possible and this can happen even in the smallest community."