PEI is the land of dreams for a culinary immigrant who opened a restaurant
by Stella Shepard
Cesar Muniz was born in Manhattan, New York and grew up in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with big dreams of one day owning and operating a restaurant.
He moved back to Massachusetts, lived there for 14 years, and then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2003.
He came to PEI in 2014 and a longtime dream became a reality when Cesar opened Lady’s Slipper Restaurant & Cantina at the Down East Mall in Montague.
The restaurant offers home-style cooked Canadian and Latin American cuisine made mostly from scratch. The restaurant is open seven days a week and offers sit-down and take-out service.
Cesar developed a passion for preparing food at the age of 11 in the Dominican Republic. He and his younger sister prepared family meals. “Our mother worked two jobs so she would give us instructions on how to cook the food,” says Cesar, who went on to become a chef.
Cesar obtained an associate degree in Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas and secured employment in the field. “I could easily find work as a chef at any restaurant. But I wanted to create my own menu and my own recipes, and offer healthy meals.”
He lives in the quiet community of Murray Harbour, which is a stark difference from living in a city with a population of six million. He relishes the quieter pace of life and the short commute to work.
“I worked long hours for years saving money to fulfil my dream of one day owning a restaurant. I took a chance buying the restaurant when I arrived on PEI and it’s the best thing I have ever done. I knew I would not get rich, but I love my customers and it’s enjoyable to see happy faces enjoying good food.”
About the staff
Cesar is the Head Chef and is training two employees to assist with cooking. There are nine employees, and most have been with the restaurant since the beginning. There is no plan for future hiring, but he is focusing on continuing to offer employment to the current staff during COVID-19 challenges.
“I have been blessed with a great long-term staff: Susan, Lori, Amy, and Heather, as well as Trista, Amy Herring, Nancy Copper, and Chef Jenish,” says Cesar.
Community Business Development Corporation East (CBDC) located at the Rural Action Centre on Main Street in Montague assists in creating small businesses and in expanding and modernizing existing businesses by providing financial and technical services to entrepreneurs. Services target entrepreneurs who require customized financing not ordinarily available from traditional sources.
CBDC East is staffed by Martina MacDonald, Director, Helen Antle, CBDC Officer, and Terri Taylor, Accounts Officer.
“The staff at CBDC East keep me updated on federal programs that are available during COVID, which helps keep the restaurant open,” says Cesar. “The staff has been helpful before COVID with financial loans and with business-related programs and advice that helped with the operational side of the business.
“Without the assistance of CBDC East, I would have not been able to continue operating the restaurant. I launched the business, but CBDC East has helped to keep it going.”
Advice to entrepreneurs
“If you have a passion, go for it and be willing to work hard,” says Cesar. “Word of mouth and having community support is vital to a business.
“Do your research before starting a business so you will know what to expect with operational costs. The first five years of business can be tough.”