A Taste of PEI On-the-Go – The Handpie Company

Whenever we hit red soil, the hankering for our favourite on the go meal kicks in. The warm flaky pastry enveloping flavourful fillings made with local ingredients is just too tempting to go past. But hey, a quick stop in never hurts, especially when The Handpie Company is conveniently around the corner from the bridge. It truly is the perfect portable meal.  

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

To find out a little more about these handfuls of deliciousness we chatted with owner of The Handpie Company Sarah Bennetto O'Brien to find how her business came to be. 

Sarah moved around a bit before venturing over to PEI to take an applied degree in culinary operations at Holland College. While studying here, she fell in love with the Island and, in turn, an Islander and decided to settle on PEI back in 2010. Fast forward almost 10 years and you’ll find Sarah residing close to her store in Borden-Carleton with her family by her side and loving Island life.

Sarah was kind enough to let me get fire some questions her way so that we could get to know the lady behind PEI’s portable pies.

Sarah can you tell us a little bit about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you're doing today?  

I guess the pertinent education would be a Culinary Arts Diploma from Cambrian College in Ontario and then an Applied Degree in Culinary Operations from Holland College, with a Red Seal Journeyman's Certificate in between them. Two organic farming work experiences also steered me towards sustainable sourcing, and having cooked professionally across Canada a few times taught me the basics of culinary skills but also that I'm very suited to the entrepreneur lifestyle rather than having several layers of bureaucracy above me.

What’s on the horizon for The Handpie Company?  

World domination! But really, we're inching towards our first goal of having a handpie within a 30 minute drive of every islander, with six shops across PEI carrying our frozen product and a couple more waiting in the wings. 

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

What made you decide to go from running a restaurant to specialising in handpies? 

I participated in a business program called Food Excel put on by the Food Island Partnership in the winter of 2017 and had the opportunity to really take a step back and work ON the business rather than in it. Focusing my thoughts on manufacturing a product rather than running a restaurant, and working out the financials for this idea, really just made everything fall into place. We'd always been making handpies for our menu at Scapes but now we would rebrand a put all of our collective energies into manufacturing these items for both hot and frozen sales.   

How many varieties of handpies do you make? 

We have nine core flavours of savoury handpies, with four limited edition varieties available at the moment, plus a rotating selection of smaller sweet handpies that are only available hot. 

Photo Credit: The Handpie Company

Photo Credit: The Handpie Company

Where did you start your career?  

At YMCA John Island Camp in Northern Ontario as a dishwasher and prep cook for a remote island camp that regularly fed over 200 people three meals a day. 

What’s your top seller? 

It really depends on the weather and the season, but our PEI Pasty is always up there. It's our take on the traditional Cornish Pasty from the UK, made with local wheat, butter, beef, potatoes and Canadian turnip. 

What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it? 

I feel like there are daily challenges in business and I thrive on that. Keeping focused and determined and enthusiastically optimistic in the face of these daily opportunities for growth is how I roll. 

You’re a true lover of embracing all things local, why is this such a passion for you?  

My experiences on organic farms taught me first hand what actually goes into producing ingredients, and I'll never lose respect for that process or those people. I strongly believe that everyone in this career needs to spend at least 6 months working with a primary producer. Besides that, community is necessary in business and in life.. and there's no better way to build it than by supporting each other. Walking the talk is core to my values.

Photo credit:      Jenessa Duval Photography

Photo credit: Jenessa Duval Photography

What does a typical day at work involve for you? 

Sarah *laughs* - there isn't much that's typical around here! As a growing business with staff and many moving parts, my days often include working the front counter at the shop through the slow season and working on emails/ order/ shipping and receiving between customers. In any given day I might also be involved with recipe development, retailer communications, wholesale distribution agreements, process development, researching bakery trade show events, new equipment sourcing, packaging design, shelf life testing, scheduling and payroll, bookkeeping, social media management, being witty on signage, fixing plumbing, snow shovelling, the list can go on. I'm not directly involved in the day to day production much as I've built an amazing culinary team that I trust and adore. 

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to open a small business what would it be? 

Just one? Sign up for an HST number before you think that you need one, and hire a bookkeeper early. 

And last but not least if we opened your fridge at home right now what would we find?  

My home life cooking revolves around my son's school lunches and quick suppers, so there's always a solid amount of dairy and fruit.. plus I always have eggs for crepes/waffles/pancakes/straight up fried eggs. We're big believers in breakfast for supper. It's rare that I get to cook an elaborate meal at home, but when I do I usually shop that same day for perishable ingredients of awesomeness. 

You'll find The Handpie Company at 1788, Route 115, ALBANY, PE. 

Hot handpies are $8.50 + Tax  and come in a variety of delectable flavours including. Bacon Cheeseburger, BBQ Pork, Beet Corn & Goat Cheese, Curried Chickpea, Organic Chicken Pot Pie, PEI Pasty, PEI Potato with Cheese and Onion, Braised Beef and Mozarella, Pork Tourtiere and their latest flavour Chicken Broccoli.

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

You can also purchase frozen pies which make for the perfect freezer filler for a cozy meal in. Frozen pies are $8 tax free and are available at: KJL Select Meats & Market, Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, Kent St. Market in Charlottetown, The Evergreen Cafe in Souris, and Food Basket in Kensington. Soon to be found "up west" as well! Stay tuned to our social media channels for that update. 

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

Photo credit: The Handpie Company

The lady behind the lens


Alana Sprague

Lans Photography

If you have visited any of our social channels you will have no doubt noticed some of the inspirational photography that we have featured from the island.  Recently we had the opportunity to have a chat with one of our favourite photographers to get to know the lady behind the lens, Alana Sprague of Lans Photography.

Alana is a born and raised islander growing up in Stratford where her parents still reside.   Around 10 years ago Alana purchased a Canon Digital Elph Point and Shoot  and she hasn't stopped shooting since, although these days she sports a Canon DSLR.

Having an eye for capturing the natural beauty of PEI, Alana gravitates landscape photography but of recent times has been dabbling in commercial photography and portrait shots.  When Alana is not behind the camera, she can be found in Charlottetown where she works for the Canadian Red Cross.

How long have you been a photographer for?  And how did you get started in the industry?

I started shooting about 10 years ago after the purchase of a Canon Digital Elph point and shoot. This camera became an extension of who I was. I had it with me all the time. Over the years I realized that if I wanted to be more professional I would need to upgrade. I started using a very out-dated Canon Rebel XT to get a feel for using a DSLR and upgraded last winter to a more professional model.

My sister and my mother were both avid photographers so it was almost like a natural progression for me to take up the hobby too. I would say that I’ve been the one who chose to pursue photography professionally.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Because I work a regular full time job my day can end up pretty hectic at times. I’m currently shooting for PEI Living magazine so I can have several shoots in a week for them alone. I’m learning to balance my day job, photography career and personal life. When shooting for others it can be hard to find time to shoot for yourself. It’s a balance that I still haven’t perfected but am working to all the time. Being a photographer isn’t just about shooting the images, there’s a lot of groundwork before and after a shoot. It’s something that the outside world often doesn’t realize. An hour behind the lens can mean many, many hours in front of your computer! Every day is an adventure and some are more fun than others!

What would be your dream creative project?

Nature is my passion so my dream creative project would be travelling and shooting for National Geographic! I mean, what nature photographer doesn’t have that dream?

Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? How do you decide where and when to shoot?

For me, it can be a planned shoot or on a whim. In the past I would say that adventure was my process. Grab a friend, my gear, jump in the car and go. Sometimes I have a destination in mind or a certain time of day that I want to shoot but it’s often just being prepared and in the right place at the right time. We live on a very beautiful Island, I try to take advantage as often as I can. I also have amazing friends who feed my creativity constantly by accompanying me on my adventures.

Who or what do you turn to for a bolt of creative inspiration?

If ever I feel my creativity waning, I just grab my camera and go, doesn’t take me long to find my groove!

Instagram: I follow many amazing photographers on Instagram and often get creative inspiration from them.

Other Photographers: We have an abundance of talent here on PEI and the Maritimes in general and I’m lucky enough to know many of them. When I got started I reached out to many of them for advice. It’s wonderful when we can shared our passion and talent with each other

If you won a return plane ticket, where would you go?

This is such a hard question to answer for me. I LOVE to travel but I don’t get to as much as I would like. I’ve never been to Europe so that’s very high on the bucket list. My sister and Brother in Law spent some time in Brussels and it looked amazing. I’m also a hot weather girl all the way so there are many tropical locations I would die to visit. Lastly, Antelope Canyon just looks breathtaking, I would love to shoot there for sure!

If you could give one piece of advice to a 16 year old you, what would it be?

Push yourself, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and pick up a camera sooner in life!!

What is your comfort food?

Craft beer, Upstreet DoGooder to be exact. Not exactly food but a go to for me! #mugclub25

To view more of Alana’s incredible work you can follow her via the links below:

Lans Photography Facebook Page

Lans Photography Instagram