Dawn-Marie Peterzen is the founder and chef at the famous local food truck Bläckfisk, pronounced exactly how it’s spelled.
“It’s funny because it’s a constant argument among everybody about what my name is,” said Peterzen.
Bläckfisk is a tribute to her husband.
“He’s Swedish, so Bläckfisk is actually Swedish for octopus”
Peterzen is also an avid fisherman and a lover of octopuses, so the name was a natural choice.
Her favourite dish to make is seafood. All the food on the truck is sourced locally between Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
Peterzen says her favourite part of the job is making people happy.
“I absolutely love it and I find it comes across. If you don’t love what you’re doing it will show. Especially in food.”
“Food is one of those things that connects a lot of people. It’s something you can’t live without. It brings lots of people together. I love it. Since I was old enough I’ve been hosting parties. Any parties, dinner parties, there’s nothing that makes more people happy than just putting people together and just having good food.”
Starting a food truck has been a long-time dream for Peterzen.
“Everybody’s been telling me for years to do it. I finally just worked up the courage to do it. It’s a high-stress job. Being your own business owner. I gotta rely on me, so that’s tough.”
Despite the challenges, Bläckfisk has found a lot of success in Kitimat.
“I have a salmon burger that’s been published multiple times, I’ve won quite a few different awards for it. It’s one of my bigger sellers up at the truck and when I’m open it is the biggest seller. I have a lady who orders them six at a time! She’s like ‘I gotta have one for my lunch and my breakfast.’ Kitimat has been extremely extremely supportive of me.”
Peterzen has plenty of stories about her regulars. “I’ve got an older gentleman who comes every time I open that food truck. If I’m open, lunch and dinner, he’ll be there for the salmon burger. He’s just the sweetest thing! He doesn’t look like our regular clientele because we don’t really cater to the older crown but he’s just wonderful. I love to see him. He’s the most pleasant man I’ve ever met. I love the look on his face every time he comes to order, he’s just happy.”
Peterzen also has a customer who orders three on the cobs every time she comes to the truck. Her street corn was inspired by her love of travelling and trips to Mexico.
“I’ve got a very stable clientele and a very very strong supporters. I love it. I love the people in Kitimat, I really do. I didn’t think I was going to be doing as well as I am. I don’t know why I thought that, I guess maybe I just wasn’t wanting to get my hopes up.”
Petersen started Bläckfisk around 10 months ago and the business is quickly growing.
“I originally started as a food truck and it quickly turned into not that. It’s mostly catering. I love that. I love the challenge that Kitimat brings me. They just keep getting bigger on me. I’m like ‘You guys are crazy!’ I love it. They just think I’m up to the challenge, which I am, I just picked up a party for 600. Plate service. Three-course plated service. Still trying to work out the logistics for it.”
Peterzen has advice for anyone wanting to start their own food truck. “Do it, just do it. Do it don’t stress yourself out.”
“If you like what you’re doing and you’re putting out a quality product, it’s how it is.”
One of the biggest challenges Peterzen faces is how busy she is and how difficult it can be to find steady staff.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I have my handful of people who have been right beside me, helping me grow this business and helping me figure it out.”
Peterzen is also thinking about the next generation of chefs.
“Getting the youngins! I got a message from two younger kids who want to learn the craft and they’re like ‘Are you willing to work with me?’ and absolutely! My biggest thing is teaching the next generation. I’ve always just wanted to teach people how to cook. Actually, I thought I was going to be a teacher for a long long time. Things went a little bit another way, but I’m still doing it!”
“I’m not going to say no to that younger generation. Absolutely not. If they’re willing to put in the work, I’m willing to put in the work, and we need more of that.”
“It’s a difficult career. Very high stress. Very busy, fast-paced. I love that though, I excel at that. When people are losing their minds I’m right in there.”
At the time of the interview, Peterzen was supposed to be taking eight days off. However, that got cut to three days before she was back at it again.
“I picked up two parties in between. I don’t know I can’t say no! Kitimat won’t let me say no! Even when I’m not working, I’m still working.”
And all that hard work is definitely paying off.
“Eventually, long-term goals, I would like to open a building for catering. I think that’s what Kitimat needs. We don’t have enough restaurants here.”
For Peterzen, it all seems to come back to people and connection.
“I would say family’s my number one passion, cooking’s my number two passion, which is all still connected to family and number three is fishing, which is also connected to family. My dad’s a fisherman. My family all lives back home in Nova Scotia.”
Peterzen is driven by a deep desire to help her community and on top of running a successful business, she also finds time to give back to those in need. She often gives away food to the most vulnerable members of our community.
“We grew up poor. I know what it’s like to struggle. I would never want anybody to go hungry. It’s not a fun thing. I like to do stuff like that for my community.”