get to know mark mcewan of mcewan group, 1
  • Name: Mark McEwan
  • Company: McEwan Group
  • Years in Business: 40+

So how’d you get started?

I had my first restaurant experience at age 16 working at Mindy’s wine cellar in Buffalo, NY. At that time, I just needed a job and a paycheque so I found an open position. The interesting thing was that I really enjoyed the dynamics of the restaurant as well as the customer buzz and interaction. Before working here, I had no experience working in a restaurant environment nor the desire. When I turned 19, I entered into a structured apprentice chef program and began my career. 

When did you get your first big break?

My first big break was landing the executive chef position at the Sutton place hotel in Toronto in 1982. I was 25 years old at the time and the youngest chef in Canada to hold a position of that caliber. 

What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you find most rewarding?

The absolute hardest part of starting my own business was assembling the money to make it happen, everything else was just good old hard work. 

To make it all happen I sold my car, received a tax refund based on my marriage timing and also had both sides of the family co-sign on a loan for the initial down payment needed. Each partner had to bring 100k to the table. In 1985, that was a LOT of money!  

Learning from failure is a valuable and inevitable part of most entrepreneurial journeys. What was your “best failure” that taught you the most? 

Failure is your best and most stern teacher! Never feel over-confident when doing a deal and always continue to challenge and question all aspects of your strategy. 

Our retail store at Yonge & Bloor would be my biggest failure, based on the location. I thought we had a winner from day 1 but unfortunately, this was not the case and we made the hard decision to close during COVID. 

Since Mark McEwan the individual and celebrity is so synonymous with the McEwan brand, does this present any challenges for you outside work? 

Not at all. Not that I think of myself as a “celebrity”, but the TV personality side has tremendously helped our brand. It encourages us to continue to set and keep the bar high based on our reputation!

get to know mark mcewan of mcewan group, 2

How has the job/profession/industry changed since you first started?

When I started, most high-end restaurants were inside hotels and independent, high-end restaurants were actually in short supply. Today, there are loads of fine dining establishments all across the city. 

What’s one of the secrets to your success? 

One secret to my success was working for myself while also owning the business as well. Most chefs in my day did not have ownership of their restaurant.

What do you look for when hiring a new employee?

I look for a good attitude, maturity, and a good job history. Most important is the ability to work with others and fit into a team, this is essential.   

What’s the best part about your job?

Best part of my job is that we work in a special category where we feed and take care of people. This helps to create a real bond with your clients and not to mention that you meet the city’s most interesting and influential people. 

What’s one big tip you would give to up-and-comers in the industry?

Best advice would be to act like a sponge, absorb as much knowledge and technique as you can and never say no. Hard work will reward you, and opportunity will find you. 

What was your first job in the industry? 

My first real job as a chef was at the Constellation Hotel where I did my apprenticeship for 3 years. 

get to know mark mcewan of mcewan group, 3

And now for the Bonus Round…

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up (and how does it relate to what you do now)?

I wanted to be a fighter pilot which has nothing to do with being a chef

Favourite celebrity?

Daniel Craig is the best 007 ever! 

Favourite childhood memory?

Any time spent at our family cottage in Turkey Point

What’s the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning?

Make the perfect Italian coffee! I have a Jura espresso machine which makes the perfect short americano, my bean of choice is Lavazza.

What are you currently binge-watching?

Succession, the writing is like no other and the characters are real life. It’s the perfect mix of drama and comedy and completely relatable to the real world today.

What was one of your less glamorous jobs you had when you were younger?

Dishwasher…every kid should be forced to be a dishwasher, it’s character building. 

Favourite vacation spot?

Anything Skiing!! Now that the grandchildren are skiing the next big adventure will be a full family ski trip.