Recognizing San Diego’s Kitchen Champions

Created: 23 May, 2019
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Mario A. Cortez

San Diego’s culinary scene is currently on an upswing, with new restaurants opening all over town and a new generation of chefs making a name for themselves. But while the restaurant world as a whole continues to evolve and grow, it is important to recognize the industry would not be the same without the hard working immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life, finding opportunity in the kitchen.

Where many see a perfect plate, what often goes unseen are the long, arduous hours spent doing prep work, coordinating schedules, running inventory, and washing dishes, all done by these irreplaceable members of our community. Which is why the Consulate General of Mexico and Chef Javier Plascencia, in conjunction with La Prensa San Diego and Edible San Diego, would like to recognize the great work done by the first and second generation Mexican immigrants working in San Diego’s restaurants.

Join us as we celebrate 15 of the many individuals who make San Diego’s restaurants run at the consulate’s Cross Border Champs program, on June 19 at Bread and Salt in Barrio Logan. Until then, get to know six of our honorees.

Amalia Moran
Kitchen Manager at Isabel’s
Cuernavaca, Morelos

Despite having no formal kitchen training, Amalia has become a vital part of Isabel’s leadership. Described by her team as having a natural talent with food, she works hard to make sure her team can succeed every day.

“Everything I do is done with love, because I like it and because I believe that a person who works with joy does a better job.”

Miguel Higuera
Sous Chef at Born and Raised
San Diego, California

Recently promoted to sous chef at Born and Raised in Little Italy, Miguel is a young chef who learns something new everyday and teaches those around him as well. Every day, from early on, he helps prepare for the night’s service and develop menus based on previous sales, what ingredients are in season, and even taking the weather into consideration.

“What I like most is helping everyone so we can get our work done every day.”

Maria Cuahutenango
Tortillera and Prep Cook at Puesto
Municipio de Chilapa, Guerrero

Maria is the soul of the Kitchen at Puesto, always bringing in her best effort and positive attitude to the kitchen. As a single mother of three, she has found in San DIego the path to get ahead in life and provide for her children, one of which is in college.
“I like working in restaurants because of the environment and my coworkers.”


Victorio Lopez
Prep Cook at The Patio on Goldfinch
Las Joyas, Guerrero

Victorio is said to have the most positive attitude out of everyone on his team, going above and beyond his job duties as a prep cook to help everyone around him. He has been on The Patio on Goldfinch’s staff since this eatery opened almost five years ago, becoming an irreplaceable member of the restaurant’s staff.

“I have always loved to work, to do my best and specially in the restaurant business since serving food is very special.”


Mario Perales
Kitchen Manager at Hash House a Go Go
Rio Verde, San Luis Potosi

When he arrived in San Diego 29 years ago, Mario went straight into the restaurant industry and has lead by example at every kitchen he has worked in. While his official title at Hash House a Go Go is kitchen manager, he also cooks, cleans, and is in charge when the chef is not present.

“I have known Hash House’s owners for so long and have been working with everyone for so long as well. They are all like a family to me.”


Jesus Garcia
Executive Steward at Viejas Casino
La Barca, Jalisco

With decades of experience under his belt, Jesus’ everyday goal is delivering the best experience to all visitors to Viejas Casino’s restaurants and special events. Every day he leads his team of over 80 employees to make sure every plate is perfect and not a single chair is out of line.

“I look at everything to make sure it is perfect, even I have to walk 50 miles a day.”

Maria Citlalmina Rosette
Sous Chef at Curadero
Taos, New Mexico

When Maria began working her first restaurant job as a dishwasher, one of the chefs in her kitchen taught her how to do prep work and helped her develop her palate. Today, she is paying this experience forward by showing new employees how to approach their work with confidence.

“If one of us makes it, we all make it. You have to push yourself and speak up for yourself, but also root for each other and support each other”

Joe Provincio
Kitchen Manager at Saiko Sushi
Imperial Beach, California

Joe has been described as a “unicorn”; hard-working, creative, and a good guy overall. He is the backbone of the Saiko Sushi kitchen staff, helping everyone get their work done and helping out whenever he is needed.

“Working with my team is amazing; we come from all over San Diego and from different backgrounds and lines of work. I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”

Gustavo Vazquez Gomez
Server at Romesco
Mexico City, Mexico

Gustavo’s coworkers at Romesco say he is the best server on the team. With a long career in hospitality, which has taken him to fine dining establishments all over Southern California, he continues to make all his guests welcome and remains passionate about his work.

“We have to do our job every day, and I love working. I am happy to be recognized.”

Esmeralda Lopez
Kitchen Manager at Fireside at the Patio
San Pedro Sula, Honduras

What makes Esmeralda stand out among her peers is her dedication, always giving no less than 100 percent to everything she does. Her management team nominated her for embodying excellence in the kitchen.

“I thank God for the opportunities I have had and my team for considering me for this award.”


Christine Rivera
Chef at Galaxy Taco
San Diego, California

Simply put, Christine’s team describes her as an “awesome” person. She handles kitchen operations, runs quality control, expedites lunch and dinner services on top of her chef’s office tasks. Her hands-on approach keeps her close to her team, who she considers family.

“I can’t do my job without the amazing staff we have. I just could not do what I do without my wonderful staff and they deserve all of the credit. They make me who I am.”