These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
I’m looking forward to carrying on the vision that co-founders Tosh Berman and Amrou Manaseer created when they opened the first Tocaya Organica location in Venice, California in 2016. I’m eager to continue expanding a brand that is so wellness-driven and committed to sustainability and preserving the environment; values that my family and I have at home. Tocaya Organica is a perfect vision, so I plan to continue successfully building on that vision for what’s ahead.
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
My 30 years of industry experience and five years of global development at California Pizza Kitchen taught me to have a very hands-on approach to restaurant operations, which I will be applying to my new role at Tocaya Organica. My experience has taught me to have a clearer focus on what the most important things are for the business that will make a difference in the present moment. I’ve learned that focusing on today is more impactful than worrying about tomorrow.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I started out as a pizza cook at Starky’s Restaurant in Los Angeles and then as pizza cook at California Pizza Kitchen’s first location, eventually working my way up through many different positions at CPK. At the time, in the mid-'80s, CPK was such a unique restaurant concept. It was the first restaurant with an open kitchen where guests could see their favorite meal being prepared. The brand established a great connection between food and people and were educating their guests about how food is prepared. It was extraordinary and so innovative at the time, and that’s how I fell in love with the restaurant industry.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
As COO, I want to ensure the fundamentals of Tocaya Organica’s restaurants can support the growth of the company, while creating an environment that develops the talent and tools needed for us to continue expanding. Catering has been a very important aspect of Tocaya Organica since the beginning and it’s something we more recently started to put more focus on. The company has been spending time developing custom catering menus and executing improved catering operations so that Tocaya Organica can effectively deliver food to various types of events. It’s a very important part of the restaurant business and it’s something we are doing a great job at, but also is an area that has an opportunity to grow. With catering, I want us to create the same amazing Tocaya Organica experience outside of our four walls. We have food that travels very well, providing our guests the opportunity to get the unique Tocaya Organica experience outside of our restaurants.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
Food brings people together and gives us the opportunity to understand humanity and learn about various cultures. In a way, food educates us on how we are all different, while at the same time so similar.