McLaughlin helps Western turn over a new 'Leaf'

By Paul Mayne
August 22, 2013

McLaughlinPaul Mayne, Western News

Rob McLaughlin had a good life in England.

He just finished two years at The City of Liverpool College, where he picked up his catering degree. For the next few years, he worked in the hotel industry. It was there a pair of co-workers – Canadian co-workers, no less – shared the merits of heading to overseas to the Great White North.

McLaughlin took the offer to heart and would find himself crossing the pond and landing in western Canada in 1978.

“I got a position with CN Railway at the Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta,” said McLaughlin, recently appointed head chef at Western’s Great Hall Catering. “I stayed there for four years before moving to the Banff Springs Hotel for six years.”

Marriage would bring McLaughlin to southwestern Ontario, where he would spend time working at the Ben Miller Inn near Goderich. He would toss in a year-long stint at a hotel in the West Indies, before making Western his new home.

And that relationship has flourished for the last 20 years.

“I thought at the time it might be time to take a break from the stressful life of the hotel business, only to find the challenge remains,” McLaughlin said. “The customer, no matter what shape or form, demands your best and that's what I’ll always strive to do to make our company the best it can be.”

At Western long enough to remember the Peacock Room and The Club, McLaughlin is now heading up the effort to re-invent Michael’s restaurant with a new look and feel. The Green Leaf Café @ Somerville is scheduled to be unveiled this September, along with The Garden @ Somerville.

Along with a physical makeover, the restaurant will feature increased capacity and a pasta bar. McLaughlin now leads a staff of eight full-time and numerous part-time employees.

“People have always told us they love the food, but you always have to freshen up to make things exciting,” he said, perhaps getting away from what he called the idea of ‘exclusivity’. “We have a number of other ideas as well, but we’ll see how things go.”

Along with the numerous weddings and catering opportunities, McLaughlin said the kitchen is always open.

“There’s always anxiety in this job, but I’m confident in myself, and my team, to pull it together,” he said. “There’s always the pressure of the job, but you’re only as good as the people you work with.”


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