2017 Hospitality Professional of the Year Finalist
Food & Beverage Director – Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
What was your first job in the hospitality industry?
I worked as a prep cook for Artiste in Washington, D.C. when I was 22 years old. I had never worked in this industry and a prep cook from El Salvador took me under her wing and showed me how to prep nearly everything in the kitchen. My first day was spent plowing through cases of cucumbers with only a small veggie peeler. The rest is history.
Who has helped/mentored you through your career?
My Dad has been my career mentor. He always told me “whatever you do, be the best.” He sent me to the U.S.A. from Peru and wanted me to build relationships, create a career and do right by my family and for my new community. Being my best in everything I do, means that every day I am my best not only through my work, but also through my interactions with people. I strive to be the best ambassador that I can be through my work and my actions–welcoming people to our Center, to our State and engaging with them so that they have the best experience possible in New Mexico. Being my best is a core value that I live and practice every single day.
What has been the highlight of your career?
In all honesty, it’s everyone I’ve worked with or had the privilege of developing while on my team. Seeing my current Executive Chef reaching out to Pueblo Communities to celebrate their amazing culture and cuisine and encouraging him to build those relationships has been a joy. Seeing a previous Chef’s face when he won the NM Restaurant Association “Chef of the Year” award. Mentoring a young Native line cook during a summer who has decided to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, or simply watching a server get excited by recommending a special menu item or inviting our guests to explore the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s museum… all of the experiences and development of the people on my team has been a highlight. It keeps me going and is why I continue to do what I do.
What is one thing you would tell young people entering the hospitality business?
Don’t forget to smile. When you smile, you invite guests to engage with you, and there’s power in that simple gesture.
What are your favorite places to visit in New Mexico?
Hands down–my journeys to Taos. The people are down-to-earth, the vibe is laid back, the landscape is beautiful, it has one of the best skiing resorts in the whole country, the restaurants are on point, and the hospitality of the people and the town is genuine.