Sarah Bennetto O’Brien is the owner of The Handpie Company, located in Albany, PEI. Sarah’s fiery passion for cooking lead her to the East Coast for the first time in 2006 when she took a risk and traded her truck for a plane ticket to venture to our small Island to pursue her degree at the Culinary Institute in Charlottetown. It didn’t take much for her to decide that she wanted to share her love for local food and stay on the Island. Over 10 years later, she has recently introduced Handpies to the Islanders and tourists; and we are all eating it up! The Handpie Company is a booming small business because of the amount of genuine love and local goodness that she fills within each savoury pie.
Name: Sarah Bennetto O’Brien
Occupation: CEO/ Owner of The Handpie Company
What does your job entail?
Being an entrepreneur is a pretty exciting career path, but it also means that I wear all of the hats. So I can be found at any given day doing dishes, ordering, working the front counter, scheduling, making the pies, fixing the garden, etc. I really do a little of everything.
How long have you been involved in agriculture/food industry on PEI?
A little over 10 years. I came to PEI to come to school in 2006, I was working as a cook in Charlottetown from 2006 – 2008 Then we came back to the Island in 2010, so I have been working in a roundabout way either in food or farming since then.
What is your education/ experience prior to entering your current job?
I have had a culinary diploma for about 20 years now, and I am a Red Seal Chef. Then I received an Applied Degree in Culinary Operations from the Culinary Institute.
Are you involved in any extracurricular or community activities?
Not at the moment, but I definitely feel that everything that I do have an overall connection to the business, there is a lot of extra community outreach that I do but it is all through The Handpie Company.
What’s your favourite Handpie?
It is so hard to choose, but the one that I would eat most often is the PEI Pasty. It is based on the cornish pasty from the UK, it’s really like a Traditional beef stew inside.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Like a lot of kids I went through a lot of different things. I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer for a while and I actually was taking International and Comparative Relations at Western University. That helped me realize that I need to work with my hands, so I got back into cooking and it just kinda flew from there.
What would you want consumers to know about your business and the agriculture/food industry?
It makes a huge difference when a manufacturer like us, actually chooses a local product. You don’t choose it for the price and a lot of manufacturing is cost driven; we at The Handpie Company are mission driven. Supporting local producers, and it really goes all the way down the line such as supporting local butchers, local plumbers, local businesses, etc. Everything that we do is with a conscience. That is why we all work as hard as we do. By choosing manufacturers that actually support local, just sends ripples all the way down the line.
Why do you do what you do?
The Handpie Company started off as Scapes when we started 5 years ago, and Handpies were always on the menu, and they just got more and more popular. That is why we chose Handpies, the decision was consumer driven. Knowing that it is a meal that you can hold in your hand that is reflecting local dairy, local organic wheat, local meat, local potatoes; it is so many local industries wrapped up into one delicious pie.
I have worked on organic farms both in B.C and here on the Island. I have had my hands in the soil, I have been out harvesting on a rainy cold horrible day, I understand and know how much work goes into the ingredients. I want to be able to give the finished product that much love, attention, and care as the producers give it. I love that we as a company have grown so fast and that we are continuing to grow so that consumers can feel all that love and attention all the way through each stage. I love being a vocal, conscientious person as a cog in that food wheel.