The Fairmont Château Laurier has got a new GM — and he’s shaking things up

Hotel plans to get its own dog, revamp food and beverage, offer chauffeured car service and extend outdoor patio season
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Jasmin Rose Ibrahim, with CTV Morning Live Ottawa, holds up a surf and turf Bloody Caesar at a party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips

It’s been just six weeks since Rick Corcoran stepped into his new role as general manger of Ottawa’s historic Fairmont Château Laurier.

Already, things are changing.

Take the party it hosted Wednesday to promote the hotel’s outdoor restaurant La Terrasse, for example. It invited social media influencers and lifestyle bloggers — anybody with some kind of online presence — to spread the word about one of the best patios in town. Located on the west side of the hotel, visitors can soak up views of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal locks and the mighty Ottawa River.

Partygoers were encouraged to enjoy the food and drinks that night while feasting their eyes on the surf and turf Bloody Caesar that's available on the menu.

Up until now, La Terrasse was only open to the public during July and August. Corcoran saw that as a missed opportunity. He wants people enjoying the beautiful space for as long as possible. Its season is being extended from late spring to early fall, seven days a week (weather permitting) for lunch and dinner.

The new manager is also looking to: revamp the hotel's food and beverage with a pop-up champagne lounge and permanent sushi bar, add chauffeured car service for hotel guests, and get a dog of its very own. It’s become popular within the hotel chain to have canine ambassadors greet guests and keep them company. No word yet on what the breed will be but expect a friendly pooch with a nose for customer service.

“I’m not scared of taking chances,” Corcoran told OBJ.social. “You throw spaghetti on the wall and whatever sticks, sticks. If it doesn’t, you try something else.

“The fun part of what I do is being able to be creative.”

Corcoran is an impeccable dresser. He also has striking blue eyes and a dark tan that he brought back from his years of working in California. He was seen at the party welcoming guests, along with the hotel's director of public relations, Deneen Perrin, and their executive chef, Louis Simard, on what turned out to be a perfect summer evening for hosting an outdoor event.

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Fairmont Château Laurier's new general manager, Rick Corcoran, with director of public relations Deneen Perrin and executive chef Louis Simard at a reception the hotel hosted Wednesday, June 26, 2019, to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Fairmont Château Laurier hosted a reception Wednesday, June 26, 2019, to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Fairmont Château Laurier hosted a reception Wednesday, June 26, 2019, to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Fairmont Château Laurier hosted a reception Wednesday, June 26, 2019, to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Currently, the region’s hotel industry is “soft”, said Corcoran, a 30-year veteran of the industry. Most of his career has been with Fairmont. “Some of the hotels are lowering their rates to get more business, so it’s hard; we’re the market leader. But, we’re doing well.”

What keeps him up at night is the thought that he’s responsible for the livelihood of 420 hotel employees and their families. “If I don’t fill the place, I fail.”

His philosophy, he says, is to always look after his staff. “You focus on the employees, you make them happy, you make them want to come to work, and you listen to them when they tell you what’s wrong and you fix it. Once they feel excited, they want to please the guests, and the guests spend more money. More money means the owners are happy. Happy owners means Rick goes on vacation more often.”

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From left, Sue Ohlson, director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Château Laurier, with Jake Moffat, manager of the hotel's restaurant, Zoe's, and Kathryn Davis, director of catering at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Corcoran, who's originally from Quebec City, started with Fairmont at the age of 21, working in the kitchen at its Le Château Frontenac. He worked his way up the hotel chain to director of food and beverage, followed by general manager. He’s been in charge of Fairmont hotels in Lake Louise, Boston, California’s Sonoma Valley and San Francisco, and Dubai. One of the highlights of his career has been managing the Fairmont hotel in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. 

His interests include long-distance running and music. “I have more equipment than talent,” he jokes of his guitars and drums.

Most recently, Corcoran was in charge of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. He stepped away from that job to come to the Château Laurier because it brings him closer to his 10-year-old son Benjamin, who lives in Montreal with his mother.

Corcoran took over from Claude Sauvé, who recently retired after 21 years as general manager.

The 429-room hotel, which opened in June 1912, has hosted royalty, heads of state, political figures and celebrities. For many years, it was home to famed photographer Yousuf Karsh and his wife, Estrellita. 

It's owned by Larco Investments Ltd. and managed by Fairmont. You'd have to be holed up inside a hotel room somewhere not to know that the Château Laurier has dominated the news lately over its controversial designs for its planned new addition.

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From left, award-winning food writer Ann DesBrisay with her husband, Ken Nyhuus, director of internal communications at Export Development Canada, with his colleagues, EDC senior content manager Janet Wilson, and EDC principal solutions architect Ed Dunnigan, at a party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The hotel collaborated on the party invitations with James Jefferson and Daniel Mackinnon from Blackbook Lifestyle.

Blackbook successfully suggested that the hotel hire local singer Julie Corrigan to perform. Mackinnon discovered her in a most unusual way: she was singing outside his Westboro-area residence bright and early one Sunday morning. Her voice — which reminded him of Sheryl Crow — woke him up.

At the time, she'd been hired to boost the spirits of marathon runners, whose route passed by Mackinnon’s place during the 2019 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Mackinnon later contacted race organizers to learn who the amazing voice belonged to.

Not only did Corrigan score the Wednesday night gig at the hotel but she’s also going to be performing three nights a week in the hotel restaurant, Zoe’s.

Definitely not drinking that night was Melissa Lamb, brand ambassador for Mark Motors Group and St. Laurent Shopping Centre. She and her partner, Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman Nigel Romick, are expecting their first child this December.

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Daniel Mackinnon, co-owner of Blackbook Lifestyle, heard local singer Julie Corrigan perform during the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and suggested she be hired to sing at the Fairmont Château Laurier's party. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Connie Bernardi, program director for Majic 100, with her sister, beauty blogger Natasha Bernardi, at a party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ann Rickenbacker, senior conference manager for the Bank of Canada, and galpal Mandy Gosewich, owner of STUNNING! fashion accessories boutique in the ByWard Market, at a party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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James Jefferson, co-owner of Blackbook Lifestyle, with Style Domination blogger Dominique Baker at a party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier to promote its outdoor patio restaurant, La Terrasse. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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In pregnancy news, Melissa Lamb and Ottawa Redblacks player Nigel Romick — seen at an outdoor patio party hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier — are expecting their first child together in December. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca