When Laura and Rene Dubois of Chisholm Township sold their White Owl Bistro restaurant in North Bay earlier this year, many people wondered what was next for the married couple.
Not being people to sit idly by, the couple is finally out with its secret.
The next leg of their journey in the food world has several components, the largest of which is creating an Airbnb.
In this instance the Airbnb involves a forested area of the Dubois’ 50-acre land where three very small cabin-like structures will sit.
The structures are built by the Algonquin Pod Company of Barry's Bay.
Rene Dubois says at 10 by 16 feet, the cabins are typically made to accommodate two people but it’s possible to fit four individuals.
“They are also rustic and have no power,” Dubois said.
“So there won't be any cooking inside but there is going to be a fire pit outside and maybe a barbeque in the future. Also we can provide them with food.”
Dubois says the Algonquin Pod is designed as a short-term camping experience lasting one or two days.
He expects the units to arrive over the winter and will be regularly available to the public from May to November.
The Dubois currently have an Algonquin Pod near their home but it's much smaller and serves as a sauna for the family.
Guests at the pods can venture onto the trails on the property or walk a short distance to Wisitising Lake and take advantage of a paddle boat, canoe or kayak experience.
However, no motorboats are allowed on the lake.
The Dubois have also started a catering business.
The kitchen trailer the food is prepared in has been a regular fixture at the North Bay Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
“We wanted to start slow after selling the restaurant,” said Laura Dubois.
“We've done a few private catering events. We'll also do private functions in peoples' homes and can cook for up to 20 people.”
During the farmers market visits, the Dubois also provide teas and specialty lunches from various foods sourced from area farmers.
And beginning this fall Laura and Rene Dubois expect to prepare frozen meals area residents can pick up or potentially have delivered.
The Dubois bought their farmland 12 years ago and as early as then they hatched the idea to have people come to the site to learn how to harvest some vegetables and how to cook them.
Laura Dubois says it's kind of a cooking class but by no means is this activity going to become a cooking school.
She also says this is not going to be a restaurant setting where people drop by unannounced.
“We'll have some tables outside and do some dinners, but this is going to be for special occasions,” she said.
As an example at the White Owl Bistro the husband and wife prepared special occasion dinners with a specific menu for certain times of the year.
Laura Dubois said something like a spring dinner was prepared to celebrate maple syrup season and people would make reservations for a specific meal for just that time.
“So now on the farm, if we do something like a brunch in the garden, we would promote it,” she said.
"Rene and I have been talking about creating different events for people to experience and us doing the cooking.”
The Dubois farm also has a large outdoor oven.
However for now it's only purpose is to provide for home meals although Laura Dubois hopes it can help serve the farm guests looking for a different food experience sometime in the future.
Another significant addition to the farm has been the installation of a greenhouse where food is grown for personal consumption.
Rene Dubois says the land is large enough to accommodate trails visitors can take in during the winter. “We have about two kilometres of trails and there's enough room for expansion,” he said.
“So if people come in on snowshoes, afterwards maybe we can serve them soup and chili.”
Asked why they have undertaken so many projects since selling the White Owl Bistro, Laura Dubois said because “food is our life.”
“And we can make people happy with what we do,” she said.
The Dubois have a huge database of former restaurant customers and area residents continue to follow them on Facebook.
Former customers and non-customers can track their progress on developing a life after the White Owl Bistro by going to their personal Facebook page and in the search bar type “wasichefs”.
Laura Dubois says as people continue to follow them soon enough they'll get to see former customers at their farm just as they now bump into them at the mid-week farmers market in North Bay.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget