The root of culinary creation

Though Kathleen McGuire’s (BSHEC’69) wandering career path took her around the world the past 40 years, it recently led her back to the U of S campus where it all began.

A product developer for A&W Canada, McGuire returned to campus for the announcement of the company’s $5-million donation to the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence on Dec. 1. It was the first time in 40 years that McGuire had the opportunity to visit the U of S. She was not only returning to her alma mater where she plied her craft as a dietetics and nutrition consultant at Royal University Hospital, but she was also returning to the site of her nuptial.

McGuire prepares breakfast inside the A&W food truck on location at the U of S.

“I wanted to get married on campus,” McGuire said, adding that she and her husband were wed on campus in 1977 at the St. Thomas More College Chapel. “The chapel was just a lovely spot.”

Marriage brought McGuire back to campus as an alumna in ‘77, but it was her degree in home economics and her talent that took her across Canada and around the world.

Nurturing an interest in dietetics and nutrition which she developed at the U of S, McGuire took an internship at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. “My degree prepared me for the dietetics and nutrition side. I worked in hospitals, overseeing food and nutrition for patients. I think it was because I had a background in food, the admin side appealed so much to me. I understood volume production of food and it was because of what I learned at the U of S.”

McGuire prepares breakfast inside the A&W food truck on location at the U of S for a gift announcement from the company.

McGuire’s passion evolved into enthusiasm for creating in the kitchen. “When I finished my internship, I thought that I would really love to work in a test kitchen somewhere,” she said.

However, the demand for professional dieticians in Australia was so great at the time, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to work in New South Wales and take advantage of the free airfare offered in exchange for fulfilling a two-year contract. After three years, her travels took her to New Zealand where she met her future husband, also a Canadian ex-pat. Following a year-long stay in London, U.K. serving in another hospital, McGuire came back home to Canada to raise a family. But the passion to work in a test kitchen and develop delicacies could not be quelled.

She moved to Vancouver and landed with White Spot, a family restaurant chain that also had a catering division, which meant an opportunity to finally work in a test kitchen.

“They never wanted to manage the cafeterias themselves, they always wanted someone else to do it,” she said. “It’s what I always wanted to do. And I got to do it!” McGuire spent 15 years with White Spot before her next opportunity; product development for A&W.

McGuire began her role with A&W in 1994 and has been instrumental in the creation and launch of several of the chain’s current menu items.

“I don’t think about the products I create reaching millions of people often,” said McGuire of the enormous reach of her test kitchen creations. “My proudest moment was something I didn’t do myself. When we changed our root beer to include cane sugar, a decision like that wasn’t easy, but it felt like we were doing the right thing. It’s working with our team that jumps my jets.”

McGuire remains very hands-on with cooking for consumers. She routinely works the grill in the A&W truck to cook the restaurant chain’s samplings for people stopped on the street in their unscripted commercial campaigns. In her return to campus 40 years later, McGuire felt right at home, quietly focused on helping to quickly turn around hundreds of Bacon & Eggers (one of the many menu items she played a role in developing) for the staff, supporters and fellow alumni in attendance at the Dec. 1 announcement.

“It felt pretty neat to be back at my alma mater for this announcement,” she said. “I loved working with food when I was at the U of S and I loved it when I worked in hospitals and I love it now. If you follow the thing that you’re passionate about, you’ll be in the right place.”

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