When you first walk through the door of this sweet take-out space located on Highway 89 in Shelburne, ON, you are met with two incredible things; one, the gorgeous smells of Caribbean cuisine, and two, the beautiful smile of chef and co-owner Dawne Apple of Bliss Tropical.
I knew I was in for something special when I met Dawne. She has this quality that makes you want to instantly give her a warm hug, or more so, receive a warm hug from her. There is an instant worth and heart to this lovely lady, and the best part is that this same sentiment translates to her food.
“I cook my food with love”, says Dawne. “My passion for food began as a young girl in Guyana, and feeding great food to the people I love just came naturally to me.” It doesn’t take long to find out that this is very much true of the food that Dawne, along with her husband and business partner, Alton Allen, serve to their customers. Their food is simply out of this world, and so worth making the drive to Shelburne.
Dawne and Alton have been in the catering business since the early nineties, and started with a storefront and catering business in Brampton, ON. The catering side of the business has been a staple in their culinary careers, however Dawne shares with us that both her education and primary career endeavours were based in corporate accounting. “For a time, I had a wonderful position in a firm where I worked as an accountant”, shares Dawne. “I loved the job and the people I worked with, but my heart was always with the catering and culinary side of my life, so I had to make a scary decision as to where I wanted to focus my attention.” So once decided, Dawne bravely told her boss that she was leaving to pursue her first love. “My boss was so amazing about it. While he was very sad to see me go, he knew I belonged in the kitchen, feeding and sharing my passion with others.” Not only did Dawne’s boss tell her she had a job with their company anytime she wanted to come back, but now that same boss utilizes Dawne and Bliss Tropical to cater all their office lunches and parties. It’s important to note here that Dawne’s old office is located all the way over in Richmond Hill, so yes indeed; her food is worth the drive! For the catering side of their business, Dawne and Alton will travel all over Ontario. “We can accommodate most locations, most facilities, and just about any requirement a client has. There’s no event too small or too big for us; if a client needs and wants it, we can make it happen.We also cater luncheons, and events big and small.”
Something you won’t see, and something they won’t boast about (but are very proud of), are the many awards Dawne and Alton have won throughout their years in the industry. There are just a few displayed in the Bliss Tropical space itself, as well as many others that there is just not enough room for. These awards come from all over, and from highly regarded and attended events like “Caribana” in downtown Toronto, “Jerk Fest”, and dozens of other yearly events that stretch through to Montreal and into the United States. Very impressive for a small business, but not surprising once you have eaten their food!
Speaking of their food, FANTASTIC is the first word that comes to mind! The menu at Bliss Tropical is small but varied, and has something for every palate. Everything is made in house, right down to the spices that Dawn has perfected since she began cooking as a young girl. The flavours in every dish are rich, tasty, and very fresh. Dawn makes it clear; “I won’t serve my customers anything but the best!” As a matter of fact, Dawn has a regular customer that comes from quite a distance just for her Roti. In fact, one day this customer arrived, and Dawn apologized telling her they were out of Roti. The fact of the matter was that Dawn actually had two Roti left, but she felt they were on the dry side, and there was no way she was going to serve her customer something that she felt was “less than perfect”. “I love our customers”, says Dawn, “every one of them are special to us, and they are treated accordingly. Whether it’s their first time here, or they’re here every day, I feed them from my soul, and treat them like family.”
And I can assure you, she does just that.
Dawn is quick to credit her own family, and friends who have supported her and Alton right from the very beginning. “We could not have come this far without them”, says Dawn, “they have been instrumental in our success.”
This tiny building, coloured on the outside with a beautiful tropical blue, has big rewards on the inside. In a word, the food, the owners, and the experience with Bliss Tropical is nothing short of “wonderful”, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the lovely lady with the beautiful smile, the warm heart, and the amazing culinary talent. And if you’re really lucky, you just might get a hug from her… and it’s all just simply wonderful!