We had the good fortune of connecting with Gustavo Rojas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gustavo, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in a small town in Puebla, Mexico and also spent a good portion of my youth in Mexico City. Before I came to the states I spent a few years in Tijuana where I had the unique opportunity to work in the nightlife of Revolution Avenue. While working in TJ, it was absolutely essential that you were a multi-tasker within the hustle and bustle of that area. I got to work in most positions you’d find at a nightclub; including busser, server, security, doorman, host, floor manager…and I even DJ’d a few times (I quickly learned that DJing wasn’t my skill set)! That gave me a very strong foundation in hospitality, and one that I draw upon to this day.
My first job in the states was at the well-known restaurant Jimmy O’s in Del Mar. I fell in love with the restaurant, the city and the people while working there, and it inspired me to work hard and learn my craft as best I could. My lifelong passion for hospitality has continued from there. I’ve worked in managment at some other San Diego favorites including Yogi’s Beach Bar, Over the Border, Snooze AM Eatery, and Coronado Marriot. I currently work in the Pony Room at the exclusive Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe. At every location I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing people, and I’ve picked up strong habits and skills along the way.
When the pandemic hit, and restaurants closed their doors, many of my friends and family started requesting help with their at-home cocktail skills. This inspired me to start my YouTube channel Hey Bartender. It really began as a way to send them cocktail tutorials and it just grew from there! We now have subscribers from across the globe which is very exciting.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work requires a high level of energy and one of the things I’m most proud of is the energy and enthusiasm I bring to mixology. I’m also proud of the relationships I’ve built behind the bar, with customers and colleagues alike.
This road hasn’t been easy. Overcoming the language barrier took time and I’ve dealt with my fair share of bias due to where I’m from and how I speak. But hey…this accent got me my wife so I can’t complain too much!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am absolutely obsessed with Little Italy so we’d probably start there. The ambience, the food, the proximity to the embarcadero…it’s all wonderful. And I’d make sure we hit Coronado Island which is one of the top beaches in the US.
We’d get up to Del Mar to eat at Jimmy O’s, walk around and enjoy one of the most gorgeous sunsets in the county.
North Park is another neighborhood we’d hit for some sushi or cocktails.
And of course, if you’re in San Diego you’re just a few miles away from Tijuana, where some of the best restaurants are just a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay on this side of the border. We frequently eat at La Espadana, La Cabana, Los Arcos, La Cayetana and Lorenza.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Every single person working in the hospitality industry deserve a shout out right now. It’s been a very rough few years with work instability, staff shortages, and an increase in impatient guests who may not understand the full extent of what is happening behind the scenes.