FOOD FOR THOUGHT FROM SAMUEL ESCOBAR
February 15, 2024
"Tito's Tacos is a place like home, where I feel welcome with staff and owners," said Samuel Escobar, manager of Tito's Tacos Commissary, which produces over 90% of the cuisine for the restaurant.
"When I was around four, I walked by here every morning," he explained. "I would hold my mother's hand as we walked my brother, Martin, who is two years older, to La Ballona Elementary School and then walked him home later. We started coming here every couple of weeks, and I grew up eating at Tito's Tacos." His personal favorite? The plain burrito with cheese.
Therefore, when Escobar graduated from Culver high school in 2015 and his focus was on getting a job as quickly as possible, Tito's promptly came to mind.
"We lived in the area, my dad had lost his job at that time, I needed to bring in some money, and I knew Tito's was hiring," he said. "I had just turned eighteen and was hired immediately. I started on a part-time basis, and within six months was full time."
Unexpected, challenging, and happy experiences were on the menu.
He worked as "server, order taker, a bit of everything including stocking and dishwashing. Later came cooking. The cook was out, so I stepped up. I had never cooked before, had just watched and seen how the cook does it. I asked the general manager, who said, 'I'll trust you, go ahead.'"
Escobar, a young man with initiative, was on his way to establishing his vital role at Tito's to its owners, Lynne Davidson and Wirt Morton.
His most unexpected experience there occurred in 2017 with his promotion to second supervisor. "There's a general manager, manager, first supervisor, and second supervisor," he explained. Surprised and gratified, he continued to do his hardworking best.
Following that, being transferred to Tito's Tacos Commissary was described by Escobar as his most challenging experience. "When Lynne offered me this opportunity in the Commissary, I was kind of shocked," he said. "I was nervous because it was a big change, and I felt comfortable in the restaurant. So, we went back and forth on it, but she felt I could do it. In the Commissary we don't deal with customers, and we cook in large bulk, keeping track of inventory. It's a very different experience from working in the restaurant, and completely different being promoted from supervisor to manager. I am now in charge of eight people. Also, tracking the inventory is very different because in the restaurant the stock inventory involved such things as paper goods, cups, and so on, but in the Commissary the inventory is the actual food." Understandably, very tight controls are required, and accuracy is a must.
As for his happiest experience at Tito's, "it was knowing the trust the owners have in me that they were open to giving me this position. I am grateful for the trust and support from the owners and general manager and for the excellent flow of communication between us all. If you don't have communication, whatever's going on in your business or personal life is not going to work."
In addition to the skills he's developed in the restaurant industry, Escobar derives pleasure from singing, a talent that recently took an interesting turn.
"I would often sing in the restaurant while cooking," he said. "Wirt suggested that I sing at the annual Tito's Fiesta Mexicana, and if I was open to it, he'd arrange it." Accordingly, Escobar performed at the 2023 Fiesta, a fundraiser created several years ago by Tito's Tacos and Tito's Handmade Vodka to celebrate National taco Day and National Vodka Day on October 4, with proceeds going to Culver City Arts Foundation.
"Sam was accompanied by 'Trio Chapala,' and he will be back this year by popular demand," said Wirt Morton. "He's a very talented performer with tremendous potential."
Lynne Davidson fully agrees, commenting that "we look forward every morning to hearing Sam sing along to traditional Mariachi, Ranchera, and Banda music being played on the radio at our Commissary located in Culver City about a mile away from the restaurant while he's overseeing the preparation of much of the Mexican food cuisine made fresh every day at Tito's Tacos for our beloved customers. Once again, this year everyone else can also enjoy watching Sam perform in person at the seventh annual Tito's Fiesta Mexicana, which raises much-needed funds for the Culver City Arts Foundation."
Escobar, when asked what advice he would offer to young people interested in entering the restaurant industry, emphasized the need to "be open-minded and be nosy, but in a good way, to see what's going on. Try to learn. Never stop learning. Be ambitious, and don't ever feel so comfortable that it keeps you from trying to move forward. And always do the best you can." Remembering his own feelings of uncertainty when the opportunity in the Commissary arose, he stressed the importance of being willing to take a risk.
For this 26-year-old who in high school wanted to be a mechanic, the risk has paid off and, in a way, his wish came true. After all, a mechanic's function is to fix problems and maintain proper operating condition, and Escobar and his crew ensure that the Commissary runs smoothly and keeps purring, eliciting similar sounds from the restaurant's happy customers.
To learn more about this award-winning restaurant at 11222 Washington Place, Culver City, CA 90230, (310) 391-5780 that's frequented by celebrities, visitors, and loyal customers, go to http://www.titostacos.com. Buen provecho!