SMU Alumni Serves Up “Truly Tasty” Asian Comfort Food

Jian Li  BComm`12If there is a recipe that a business owner could follow for the formation of a successful restaurant, it might go something like this: a well respected business degree, plus hands-on experience in the field, mixed with healthy amounts of focused effort, hard work, and the ability to make smart decisions.

Finding a Niche Market

Jian Li, who owns the Truly Tasty restaurant on Quinpool Road, has all of these ingredients and more. The 29-year-old has also found a niche market in the student population of Halifax and has cleverly located the restaurant in a central location, on a commuter pathway for many travelling to work and school.

“We offer large portions of tasty food at a very good price—just what students are looking for,” says Li. Add to that, the fact that the restaurant can boast the use of local ingredients and dishes that are completely homemade. “We describe it as Asian comfort food.”

Primarily serving noodle soups and dumpling dishes, Li had the business savvy to invest in a special machine to make their own noodles and dumplings. He also believes in the value of supporting local farmers and only uses local pork and chicken.

Leaving China to Expand Possibilities

Originally from China, Li already had a university degree, but was interested in expanding his possibilities by studying in another country. “Saint Mary’s was a great choice for me,” he says. “I had a fantastic experience, learning an enormous amount and growing as an aspiring business person.” It’s also the place he met his wife ShanShan Liu, who helps him run this family business.

Li acknowledges that there are still occasional cultural barriers, but he is grateful for the experience and education at SMU that taught him how to manage these difficulties. “I had great professors,” he says. “The education I received from SMU really helps with both business and life in Canada.”

During his years at SMU, Li worked part-time in restaurants all over the city of Halifax, to acquire experience and learn the do’s and don’ts of the industry. “I’ve always been passionate about food and restaurants, so it made sense that this would be the business I got into.” Immediately upon graduation in 2012, Li opened the doors of Truly Tasty and has been growing the business ever since.

The couple is at the restaurant many hours before they open every day ensuring that all the food is freshly prepared for customers that day.  “We prepare everything ahead of time so that when the customer arrives, they can eat within a few minutes of ordering.”

Their simple one-page menu has Haligonians raving, and coming back for more. “We have many regular customers and our business is growing, mostly based on word of mouth,” Li says. Keep an eye out for additional Truly Tasty locations in the future. With a recipe that can’t be beat, this successful business will keep you coming back for more!