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Epicurious: Earls manager wins provincial hospitality award for exceptional service

The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association honoured Cliodhna Minihane for ‘her patience and resilience’
Earl's Epicurious
Earls Whistler night manager Cliodhna Minihane was one of four hospitality workers across the province honoured by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association this week. She was selected for her patience and resilience during the pandemic.

Whistler might already have a reputation for exceptional hospitality, but the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) just made it official. 

Cliodhna Minihane, a night manager at Earls Kitchen & Bar in Whistler, was among four hospitality workers honoured by the association this week as part of the BCRFA’s “Standing Up for Service” campaign.

To shine a light on the people serving as the face of B.C.’s hospitality industry, the BCRFA put a callout to diners, asking for examples of times where workers went above and beyond while following COVID-19 best practices. During the 12-week campaign, British Columbians shared hundreds of stories to nominate more than 250 servers, cooks, dishwashers and owners, according to the association.  

“With B.C. residents eager to nominate a deserving restaurant worker in their neighbourhood, it was difficult for us to select four truly outstanding individuals,” said Ian Tostenson, BCRFA president and CEO, in a release. 

Minihane has been working at Earls since September 2019 and in the role of night manager since October of last year. She worked her way up to the position through hosting and serving, after initially relocating to Whistler from Ireland to work as a sailing coach on Alta Lake. 

The BCRFA said Minihane was “recognized by her colleagues and Earls visitors for her patience and resilience, especially when dealing with challenging patrons. She leads others with kindness, class, and professionalism, always setting a great example for her team members.” 

Minihane said she was “completely shocked” to find out she’d won, considering she wasn’t even aware she’d been nominated for an award. 

“I’m new to this whole management role compared to some of the managers that have taught me and that I look up to, so in many respects, I’m still very much finding my feet,” she said. “I think the COVID procedures and my routine over the past nine months definitely formed a leadership style that I’m lucky to have and I’m proud of having, and one that I want to move on and teach to other leaders. And that’s just patience.”

Minihane continued, “A manager should be seen as a leader and as a mentor, as someone that strives to inspire and create a warm atmosphere for not only the customers but for [staff] too. That’s always the No. 1 goal. It’s nice to know that the leadership style I choose to take is one that matches who I am personally—and that it must be working.”

With the light at the end of a long, dark and challenging tunnel becoming brighter by the day as B.C. nears the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minihane said, “it almost feels unimaginable” to be reopening for business as (almost) usual. 

Now, after a full year of being saddled with the responsibility of enforcing provincial health orders and reminding guests to follow them as well, “Work feels so fun,” she said. 

“It makes me feel really accomplished to know that our whole team got through [the challenges of the pandemic], and everyone’s come out of it with such a positive attitude.”

Minihane chalked up the restaurant’s success throughout the pandemic, as well as her nomination, to her “fantastic” team and mentors at Earls Whistler.

“Everyone in that restaurant is someone that I’m proud to call my friend as well as a colleague, so I think that made all the difference,” she said. 

Minihane and the other three winners will each receive a Sumac Ridge Estate Winery gift and a $250 giftcard from Save-On-Foods. Also recognized by the BCRFA are Carina Stokes of the Small Axe Roadhouse in Enderby; Mieran Loria from Moxie’s on Yates in Victoria; and Clint Goldsmith at Vancouver’s Water St Café.

“It’s amazing to finally be in a time where we can celebrate, and we feel the stress our industry has been under begin to lift,” Tostenson said in the release. “I am so proud of this program that acknowledges people that make our industry great—and so thankful that our sponsors shared our vision. I commend all restaurant workers for staying the course and providing great service in these trying times.”