Ottawa is about to get a new hangout: LOCAL Public Eatery Lansdowne. “You’re only a stranger here once,” LOCAL promises to be the place where Ottawans can hang out and eat and drink “common food done uncommonly well.” We caught up with the two running the ship, Chef Vinoth Punniyaratnam and General Manager Manon Paquin, to find out more about what Ottawa can expect when the new pub opens in late November.
Manon, a big part of the LOCAL brand is being the “local” hangout in the areas in which you operate. How does LOCAL Public Eatery Lansdowne go about accomplishing this?
Manon: We want to be part of the community! We want to support local teams, local festivals, local events, and whatever is happening around us. We want people to know who we are, put faces to names and get to know us so that when they come and visit, they know that they will feel right at home with a cold beer in their hand and friendly faces around them. I always like to compare us to the old school show “Cheers” – where everybody knows your name!
Vinoth, you were awarded Back of House Manager of the Year this year. Can you tell us a bit about what it means to have won?
Vinoth: In such a competitive industry, I think it’s great that the company takes the time to recognize people for their work. There is something about this event that makes you feel like a rock star; whether it’s the red carpet or open bar, they really do make you feel special. I was really honoured to have won this award. I had a lot of help along the way and I think I was able to gain insight from everyone I’ve worked with and made a new career out of it.
A key reason why you won Back of House Manager of the Year is your people development skills. What are some of the most important aspects of developing young Chefs?
Vinoth: I think it has more to do about how much you’re willing to learn about your chefs that makes it all work. Taking the time to understand how each individual works and what motivates them and gets them excited is what can allow you to have breakthroughs with people. The kitchen can be a tough place to work but as long as you’re willing to listen to your people you can figure out how to make it work.
What was it about LOCAL that made you want to move into management and build a career with the company, Manon?
Manon: When I joined the company 8 years ago, I was welcomed into the family and haven’t looked back since. Within 3 months of working, I was attracted to the management team and through this, I have made life-long friends and have been lucky to be surrounded by so many successful people and mentors who have supported me through my journey so far. This company supports my development as a manager and as a business woman through mentorship, coaching, training, and education. We’re always trying to push the envelope and leapfrog our competitors to better ourselves every day. I have been given so many wonderful opportunities through this company and I am so excited to be taking on this next chapter and be part of the LOCAL brand.
Vinoth, can you briefly describe the LOCAL menu and highlight some of your favourites?
Vinoth: Simple: it’s your pub favourites done right! I think our burgers are going to make some noise in this city plus who doesn’t love freshly baked buns?
Manon, you previously worked in the industry in Winnipeg. Do you anticipate that there will be any significant differences between the Winnipeg and Ottawa markets?
Manon: I believe that Winnipeg and Ottawa market will definitely have their differences, but I don’t think it will be as drastic as some may think. I have found many similarities between both cities and I believe that the competitive skills I learned through being part of the challenging Winnipeg market will help me thrive in the Ottawa market. The competitive pub market in Ottawa will be the biggest challenge so we need to constantly challenge ourselves on being consistent and sticking to the brand we know and love. Also, the fact that I won’t have to endure another Winnipeg winter will keep my fight going all year round… (laughs)
Being part of a brand new store opening up in a booming area in Ottawa will be exciting and I think that creating relationships within the community will be the key to our success.
What do you look for in job seekers who want to work with you in your kitchen, Chef?
Vinoth: Their personality and passion! Our food isn’t rocket science; I can teach you all you need to know about the menu. But, if there isn’t any excitement or care coming from my cooks, it’s hardly as fun of a career.
How does EightSix Network help you find the best candidates for LOCAL?
Manon: EightSix Network has been a great resource for us to find great employees with experience. Being a job site that specializes in the restaurant industry helps us to search through applicants who already know and love being part of a dynamic and energetic team and who thrive in a fast-paced environment.
What’s your favourite drink, Vinoth?
Vinoth: The El Caesar with Sunday brunch is a great combo.
You have an entire Saturday off in October, Manon. What does your day look like?
Manon: Saturday off in October… Well, chances are I have enjoyed my morning sleep in, my two cups of coffee, and I am making brunch for my husband and I. We would then probably suit up our runners and outdoor comfy attire and go walking and end up at a nearby pub to have a pint and watch the big game. It would then lead into us making dinner as I love to cook, or going out with friends to enjoy some delicious wine and great company, and then see where the night may take us.
Vinoth, is there anything about the LOCAL Public Eatery Lansdowne restaurant opening that excites you the most or is unique from other restaurant openings you’ve done?
Vinoth: I’ve been in Toronto for the past few years so moving out here this past month – where I haven’t found anything like LOCAL – is what excites me. I’d also be lying if I didn’t mention that this is the first location I will work at as a chef!