Women We Love: Nicki Laborie

For just shy of three years, Nicki Laborie has been bringing Toronto’s greatest restaurants to life via slickly-produced, movie trailer style videos on the city’s premier video restaurant guide, ViewtheVibe.com.

View the Vibe came out of a love for the food and hospitality industry Nicki’s had her entire life. Montreal-born to a worldly family, Nicki’s childhood was spent summering in France, dining on foie gras and steak tartare – much different than the macaroni n’ cheese dinners of her school friends. Her mother’s impeccable cooking and her father being a wine aficionado only further developed her love for fine dining from an early age.

Starting her food education at Montreal’s LaSalle College, Nicki studied in the Restaurant Management Culinary School program. But being a dancer and a fashion-forward thinker as well led her to New York City where she completed a Bachelors Degree in Fashion Marketing at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology.

Soon after, Nicki began a powerhouse career in fashion, luxury, and hospitality public relations, fusing her love of food and clothing into her bread and butter. She had the privilege and responsibility of working with top brands like Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, and Mont Blanc; personalities like Chef Charlie Palmer and J Mendel; and events like the Oscars and 7th on 6th Fashion Week. For six years she honed her skills in all areas of fashion, hospitality and marketing, before returning home to Montreal and launching her own successful catering company.

Cold winters and a wanderlust ultimately forged Nicki’s next exciting career path: running the impressive 25,000 sq. ft. Bamboo Bernies Complex on the beaches of beautiful St. Maarten. It was only after the restaurant’s property was sold that Nicki returned to Toronto, poised for greatness with a 360-degree background in the public relations/marketing/media/hospitality industries. View the Vibe was the natural progression of her combined experiences.

Now, View the Vibe has cemented itself as Toronto’s premier Video Restaurant Guide, offering diners a fly-on-the-wall vantage point of the ins and outs of a restaurant’s food, ambiance, decor, clientele and service style. Naturally, you’ll only find the best establishments a city has to offer on View the Vibe, as Nicki’s mandate is to never feature a restaurant she wouldn’t happily dine in herself.

Recently, Nicki launched the View the Vibe Video Search Engine platform for Vancouver restaurants and Toronto spas as well, and has plans of tackling other markets in 2014.

image005Name: Nicki Laborie

Occupation: Founder and Director of ViewtheVibe.com

Education: Bachelors in Marketing & Culinary Training

How did you get started on your current career track?

As someone who had been working in both the restaurant and marketing/PR industries for 20 years, I felt we had a lot of restaurant guides and review sites that did not truly reflect the essence of what a restaurant is really about. Nowadays people choose a restaurant a lot more based on their mood or date for the evening – a video can properly showcase everything from the food, to the ambiance, to the type of clientele, to the overall vibe. I was new to Toronto in June 2007 and found myself using search engines and review sites but then I’d go to my restaurant of choice and be disappointed as the reviews and pictures were not reflective of what the restaurant truly was. I saw a video made for a restaurant in Europe and thought that this was a great way to showcase a restaurant – not a commercial but a glimpse into what the establishment is about when it’s busy. It wasn’t quite a trend at that point but it was definitely a good idea to better market a restaurant. That’s how View the Vibe was born. I did research across North America to see what other sites were producing videos and while I found some, nobody was creating that high quality “movie trailer” style video that I was envisioning. That was in August 2010 – I wrote a business plan and less than 2 months later had investment and incorporated the company. The vision/execution for the videos is very important to me – my videographers follow a style that is unique to View the Vibe. We also film while a restaurant is busy with no actors or extra lighting – the videos truly reflect the actual vibe. At this point, we have grown into a full service video marketing company as while filming a beautiful high quality video is great, if the video is not marketed, then it’s useless.

What motivates or inspires you in your work?

IMG_1870My biggest motivator is client success. When we create a video that a client loves and then see it has generated over 200,000 views in three months, this pushes me to keep going and keep growing the View the Vibe brand. Another motivator is when I meet people and they tell me how much they love using the site to find a great restaurant. I guess success is what motivates me.

Do you have a personal work philosophy?

Work hard, play hard. And I have to remind myself of that regularly or the work takes over the play. Balance is key in life.

If you weren’t doing this, what could you see yourself doing?

I would definitely own my own restaurant. Creating an amazing restaurant experience is something I love and after opening many restaurants for others, I would have loved to create one myself – perhaps one day I still will!

What are you working on right now?

Currently we are expanding the brand across Canada having launched in Vancouver a few months ago and plans to launch in Calgary in the new year. Given that View the Vibe only promotes the best of a city, we need to expand into other cities to grow the business vs. targeting every restaurant in one city.

What do you first notice about a guy?

His eyes.

What gets you interested?

A personality and humour. If he has me laughing, he has my attention.

What keeps you interested?

If he keeps me laughing, if he can intrigue me, if he’s smart and I’m attracted to him then it’s on!

What’s your number one deal breaker?

Acting like a douche would be my #1 deal breaker. Be kind, be respectful and be a man.

To stay in shape, what’s your basic diet look like?

IMG_1909I always joke saying I eat for a living, but I kinda really do. So, my trick is to stay away from carbs, sugar, and dairy 80% of the time. When I’m in a review situation where I can’t avoid it, I eat smaller portions or less than half of my plate.

What sort of fitness plan, if any, do you follow?

I work out a lot because I love food and wine. I have a personal trainer that I see 2-3 times per week, I do moksha yoga whenever I can and I have recently discovered Studio Lagree, which is a killer workout using a Pilates inspired machine.

What’s next for you? What’s your next big idea or project?

I am working on a new web video series called “Gossip Grill” where I sit down with restaurateurs, chefs, mixologists and get to know them – not the restaurant, not the food, not the cocktail but more find out what they do on their day off, what makes them tick etc. It’s so much fun and I always find out some good stuff J

Favourite workout tip: Do something you love.

Favourite recipe: My mom’s gruyere, tomato and onion tarte.

iPhone or Android: iPhone but sadly I currently have an Android.

What are you driving: Mini Cooper.

One thing guys should know when talking to a beautiful woman: Look her in the eyes.

One quirky thing about you that never turns up in interviews: I love dipping plain melba toast in white wine – so totally weird I know. My dad used to do this when I was growing up and I took to this very odd habit.

image006View the Vibe Online: www.viewthevibe.com

View The Vibe on Facebook: www.facebook.com/viewthevibe

View The Vibe Twitter: @viewthevibe