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Menu Talk with Pat and Bret

Shawn and Holly McClain share operational strategies for their Detroit and Las Vegas restaurants

The couple operates Highlands and Olin in Michigan and Libertine Social and Balla Italian Soul in Nevada


Shawn McClain has been running restaurants for decades, having got his start in Chicago, where he lived for 20 years, first studying at Kendall College and then building a name for himself as a talented and innovative chef.

He ran the kitchen of Trio in Evanston, Ill., before Grant Achatz took that over and began his own rise to fame. Then McClain opened Spring to critical acclaim in 2001, followed by Green Zebra, which was one of the country’s first fine dining vegetarian restaurants.

Now he spends his time between Detroit, the hometown of his wife Holly, and Las Vegas. The couple has been back in Motor City for the past 12 years and currently operates Highlands, a fine-dining restaurant at the top of General Motors’ global headquarters, where he has reworked the typical approach to running restaurants with spectacular views by actually offering great food and service there.

Holly McClain is heading up Olin, a sort of American brasserie in downtown Detroit that the couple built and opened during lockdown.

McClain’s Libertine Social, now in its seventh year of operations, is at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and is having its best year on record. He opened Balla Italian Soul last year and is working on opening his first Las Vegas concept that’s not on the Strip, a wine bar and retail shop called Wineaux.

The couple recently shared their approaches to running their restaurants and discussed the business climates in the two cities where they operate.


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