About Bob

Bob Desautels was born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in Ottawa and Montreal. He moved to Guelph in 1971 to attend the University of Guelph on an academic scholarship. Four years later Bob had finished a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the School of Hotel and Food Administration (1975). He also went on to complete a Masters of Arts degree in Philosophy (1984) from Guelph and served as President of the Philosophy Graduate Student’s Association during his student years. Bob has been married to Susanne since 1973 and is father to Emily and Court as well as “pops” to his 5 grandchildren…“his little angels”.

Bob’s early working career involved six years in club management. He also played golf professionally and competed on both the Canadian and Australian PGA golf tours in the mid 70’s. Eventually he became club manager and professional at a golf club north of Toronto. 

In 1981 Bob accepted a teaching position on the Faculty at the University of Guelph, School of Hotel and Food Administration. He worked closely with the team that developed the Advanced Management Programs for the Hospitality Industry for the university. Bob went on to coordinate the logistics for three different executive programs. During his time at the university he taught eight different courses in the Bachelor of Commerce degree program. These courses included: Introduction to Hotel and Food Administration; Quantity Food Production; Control Systems for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry; History of Wines, Beers and Spirits; and, a fourth-year seminar in Management Theory. Bob wrote a number of Business Cases for senior undergraduate courses and published the paper “Hospitality Trade Development in Canada” in the British academic journal ‘Tourism Management’. It was during his time teaching that he opened La Maison, a restaurant serving French cuisine, and Guelph’s first wine bar. Bob managed the restaurant for 3 years. He assumed Head Chef duties for the last 18 months prior to selling the business in 1987. Bob also began his involvement with environmental initiatives in the early 1980’s. He was a founding member of Canada’s Green Party in 1983.

In 1991 Bob resigned from the University of Guelph to start up Neighbourhood Group of Companies. The company’s pub concept was centered around a purchasing philosophy that featured locally-crafted foods and beverages. Eventually there were operations in Peterborough, Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston. The Group became the first chain to fully endorse and buy beers from Ontario’s burgeoning microbreweries. The Pub Group garnered rave reviews in the press and received a fierce loyalty from its many customers. Nevertheless, the quick expansion resulted in chronic undercapitalization so in 2005 the company decided to sell all its pub operations except for The Wooly Pub in Guelph. In 2008, with the help of business partner Aldo Mauro, the company started a new concept, The Borealis Grille and Bar (and now has two locations in Guelph and Kitchener). In 2015 Bob and his son, Court, created a new restaurant concept called Miijidaa Café + Bistro.

Bob has always been a committed advocate for developing a strong sense of community, promoting diversification of local economies and encouraging environmentally sound business practices. In the early 90’s he was heavily involved with the Guelph Student Campus Co-op’s Board of Directors and co-chaired the Guelph Spring Festival Annual Wine Auction and Gala. He was named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ by the Edward Johnson Music Foundation in 1997. From 1998 to 2001 he served as the Chair of the city’s Visitor and Convention Services. Bob also served on the ‘Steering Committee for the Speed and Eramosa Rivers: An Ecological History Walking Tour.’

Bob has also been active in a number of associations, clubs and projects. He was a charter member of Cuisine Canada and former National Board Director.  He’s been a member of the Canadian Foodservice and Restaurant Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Guelph’s Cutten Club, An Quaich Scotch Tasting Society. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Grand River Conservation Foundation. Bob was involved in the original committee that established Ontario’s ‘Ale Trail’ for which he received a Certification of Appreciation in 1999. Over the years he has consulted for various restaurant concepts. The Ontario Hostelry Institute picked him as its 2012 Gold Award Honoree in the category of “Independent Restaurateur of the Year” and the company also recently won FoodService and Hospitality Magazine’s 2013 Green Leadership Award for Canada. In 2016 Restaurant News named Bob “Ontario Restaurateur of the Year” and in 2017 he was given the University of Guelph’s “Distinguished Industry Leader Award.” He is especially proud of the 2016 Grand River Conservation Authority’s “Watershed Award” given to the company due to all the efforts of employees, including tree planting and fundraising activities. The Group has raised over $150,000 for river restoration. At this point in his life and career, and after these nice accolades, Bob decided it was time to retire from day-to-day operations.

Looking forward, as Chair of the Neighbourhood Group of Companies, the major focus of Bob’s activities will be to help the company expand concepts across Ontario. The company plans to find qualified individuals who desire to be restaurateurs and fully embrace the buy local and sustainable principles and beliefs of the Group. Bob’s energies will be centered on promoting the member restaurants as vibrant local meeting places that feature locally-crafted foods and beverages through his role as Chair of the Group. Bob’s son, Court, has taken over as President. Along with Louise McMullen (CAO), Neil Robinson (COO), Shea Robinson (Executive Chef) and Aldo Mauro (Real Estate Director), he will be steering the company into the future. Court’s first major initiative was coordinating the B Corp certification of all company restaurants thereby making The Neighbourhood Group the largest restaurant company in the world to receive that status.

With the new executive team in place, and with time on his hands, Bob has decided to embark on a writing career to tell his stories and philosophies which have come into focus with experience and age. He plans to continue with his blog Bobby D’s Locavore’s Digest and finish his upcoming book, A Book of Sayings – An Old Man’s Reflections and Lessons Learned for His Childrens’ Children. He will also be actively promoting his wine book, WineSense – The Three Keys to Understanding Wine and his children’s book, co-authored with his granddaughter Ava, The Girl Who Loved Cheese. For more information visit bobdesautels.com.


Photos

 Granddaughter Ava on the Speed River

Granddaughter Ava on the Speed River

 Carolyn Pletsch, Chief editor who turns jumbled scribblings into coherent thoughts

Carolyn Pletsch, Chief editor who turns jumbled scribblings into coherent thoughts

 Sue in her homeland, the land of Oz

Sue in her homeland, the land of Oz

 With Steve Dyck and Mike Schreiner, GPO Leader

With Steve Dyck and Mike Schreiner, GPO Leader

 Bob with artist Charlie Pachter in Orillia

Bob with artist Charlie Pachter in Orillia

 With Charlie Pachter, Keith, Judith, and Amanda

With Charlie Pachter, Keith, Judith, and Amanda

 Sue and I with Gordon Lightfoot at his home

Sue and I with Gordon Lightfoot at his home

 With cousin Rob & Andrina

With cousin Rob & Andrina

 Receiving Masters degree in Philosophy with Terry Williams

Receiving Masters degree in Philosophy with Terry Williams

 Prince Edward and I in London, Ontario (as an anti-monarchist, I had to bite my tongue)

Prince Edward and I in London, Ontario (as an anti-monarchist, I had to bite my tongue)

 Parents Dorothy and Bob. Where it all began!

Parents Dorothy and Bob. Where it all began!

 The Desautels Kids: Debbie, Bob, Rick & Catherine

The Desautels Kids: Debbie, Bob, Rick & Catherine

 Bob at the Convento, Portugal

Bob at the Convento, Portugal

 With Company Treasurer and very good friend, Louise McMullen, 25 years together and counting!

With Company Treasurer and very good friend, Louise McMullen, 25 years together and counting!

 Meeting David Foot, Author of  Boom, Bust, Echo

Meeting David Foot, Author of Boom, Bust, Echo

 Water for Life, Not Profit

Water for Life, Not Profit

 Harvey joins the family!

Harvey joins the family!

 Greg Denton with Portrait of Mo

Greg Denton with Portrait of Mo

 Sue and I 

Sue and I 

 Courting Sue in Crystal Palace, London in 1972 at the  Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour. 

Courting Sue in Crystal Palace, London in 1972 at the  Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour. 

 Earth Goddess Temple in Malta

Earth Goddess Temple in Malta

 And for you? What is sacred?

And for you? What is sacred?

 Good friends.   L to R: Bertha, Jean-Pierre, Jacques and Danielle.

Good friends. 

L to R: Bertha, Jean-Pierre, Jacques and Danielle.

 Grand daughter Daisy

Grand daughter Daisy

 Copy of Sadie, Ava and Frankie - Tree Planting with Nanny and Pops, Rotary Forest

Copy of Sadie, Ava and Frankie - Tree Planting with Nanny and Pops, Rotary Forest

 With Michelle Gregory - editor par excellence

With Michelle Gregory - editor par excellence

 In the Douro, with Cousin Jeff

In the Douro, with Cousin Jeff

 Tree Planting with Executive Chef Shea Robinson and his family

Tree Planting with Executive Chef Shea Robinson and his family

 With Don Ziraldo, founder of Inniskillin and wine industry pioneer and game changer‎.

With Don Ziraldo, founder of Inniskillin and wine industry pioneer and game changer‎.

 With David Suzuki at Kitchener Borealis

With David Suzuki at Kitchener Borealis

 Court, Kristen, Andrew, and Emily

Court, Kristen, Andrew, and Emily

 In Paris with cousin Cindy (1972)

In Paris with cousin Cindy (1972)

 Favourite Aunt Alyne & Uncle Bruce

Favourite Aunt Alyne & Uncle Bruce

 Cousin Val with Jeff in tow, at our home, Ballyhoo, in Carriacou‎

Cousin Val with Jeff in tow, at our home, Ballyhoo, in Carriacou‎

 Book Launch 'Girl Who Loved Cheese' with artist Gillian Wilson and Ava

Book Launch 'Girl Who Loved Cheese' with artist Gillian Wilson and Ava

 Ava, The Girl Who Loved Cheese, in her Buddha pose

Ava, The Girl Who Loved Cheese, in her Buddha pose

 Joanna Pleta, my website builder and social media guru

Joanna Pleta, my website builder and social media guru

 Donation for River Restoration, With Debbie Sinclair and Erin from OPIRG.

Donation for River Restoration, With Debbie Sinclair and Erin from OPIRG.

 Court and Daisy

Court and Daisy

 With Tom Cochrane - "Life is a fairway"

With Tom Cochrane - "Life is a fairway"

 Moe Norman, Court, and myself

Moe Norman, Court, and myself

 With Tanya Sood at her book launch

With Tanya Sood at her book launch

 Sue with Bernard & Marie in France

Sue with Bernard & Marie in France

 The women who cared for the graves of my father's Lancaster crew in France

The women who cared for the graves of my father's Lancaster crew in France

 View from our bedroom in Carriacou

View from our bedroom in Carriacou

 With Debbie Sinclair, one of our all-time best Managers

With Debbie Sinclair, one of our all-time best Managers