This is part of a year-long ‘Love for Local’ series called NB365: portraits of New Brunswick entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations. Huddle is a media partner with Love for Local. Today we feature Michelle Hooton of Italian by Night, in Saint John.

I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since the age of 16 and passionate about all things Italian since I saw Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet at twelve years old.

I’d always wanted to open my own Italian restaurant but life kept pulling me in a different direction. When I met my partners, Elizabeth Rowe and Gord Hewitt, the stars aligned. We had an instant connection, I was available and there was an opportunity in the marketplace so we went for it. The rest is history.

As a chef, supporting local is a natural extension of my food philosophy. My husband and I own a farm on the St. John River, where I grow edible flowers, unusual herbs, and heirloom vegetables for the restaurant. I seek out local growers during the growing season to be able to offer our guests the freshest ingredients possible which in turn heightens their dining experience.

Locally grown foods, beyond tasting better, also allow local people to support themselves and employ other locals. More money is kept in the community, local businesses grow and help to improve the local tax base. As a company, we support as many local businesses as possible: cleaning, florist, produce, fishmonger, tradespeople, artisanal foods and beverages.

Supporting local business has a real impact because when you support local you are putting money back into your own community, allowing your family, friends, and neighbours to grow their families and build their lives here instead of leaving for perceived greener pastures. It truly is the most organic way to grow a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable place to live.

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