Mexico City-born Mateo Juarez is one of the many unsung heroes in the service industry who bear the grit and grime of it all with a kind of devotion that only the most diligent possess. After moving to New York in 2003, the now Bar Back and Chef at Holiday Cocktail Cocktail Lounge since 2015, and proprietor of Church Bar since 2014, is not one to rest on his laurels. Rather than circumvent responsibility, he welcomes it and is even, atypically, enthusiastic about it. Working in hospitality, for Juarez, is a reward in and of itself.
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Years in NYC: 14
Where have you worked in the city under the hospitality umbrella?
I’ve worked at many different places around the city as a food runner: La Palapa West, Rosa Mexicano, Balthazar, Cilantro, Tio Pepe and Casa Pepe. Everywhere.
What did you do before you worked in the service industry?
I’ve worked many different jobs. I’ve worked in the service industry, in construction, and I’ve even cleaned banks in the past. I’m always working.
What are the pros and cons of working in the industry?
I love new experiences. I don’t have any bad experiences working in the industry. I don’t mind the long hours because I like working hard.
What is your most memorable story?
I used to work at a sports bar in Hells Kitchen where there were a lot of crazy, wild people. There were a lot of fights and some nights I would have to be the bouncer as well as the bar back. That was a very memorable time in my life.
Who would you say is your industry mentor?
Erik Trickett. He’s the best. He’s a good person and a good teacher. I’ve taken a lot of what he’s shown me at Holiday back to my own bar.
What is your long term goal in the industry?
My ambitions? I have too much ambition. I work very hard for my dreams and I want to open many bars and restaurants. I would love to open up a beer garden, but I want to focus on everything because I’m working in so many different areas. I focus on all aspects. I’m open to anything because I want to cater to all kinds of people.
What’s the best staff meal you’ve had?
Any of the meals from Balthazar. Beef, pork, seafood, anything. We also mess around in the kitchen at Holiday late at night. (To add to this, Mateo makes some of the best tamales in town)
What makes the hospitality industry so special?
I love to learn and meet new people. I also love the friendships I develop and the sense of ambition.
Best advice you’ve received?
Luchar por tus metas. Fight for your goals.