If you've visited the El Gaucho Seattle or Bellevue locations, there's a good chance you've seen Manny Romero. He's worked with the company since 2002, and is the longest-serving waiter at El Gaucho Bellevue with 12 years of service. However, working in the restaurant business wasn't always his plan.
After living in Manhattan for over a year, Romero went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Seattle University. He went on to work in data infrastructure sales, but was never fully satisfied. Romero remembered back to his college days when he was happier working in the restaurant industry. With a bit of faith, he connected with an old friend and was offered a job to work at his family’s restaurant in Seattle: El Gaucho.
For the last 19 years, Romero has worked at El Gaucho and moved to the Bellevue location in 2010. He states that creating relationships is his favorite part of working in a restaurant - that it feels more fun than work. Hear more about his view on the restaurant industry, how El Gaucho stands out and why he loves Downtown Bellevue.
What makes El Gaucho stand out?
El Gaucho is not like other restaurants where the staff is a revolving door. Our team has been here for a long time. The company does an excellent job looking after their staff and they recognize that the people are the ones who make the difference. It's a great organization that cultivates professional relationships and makes it easy to climb our way up by training us well. Because of this, our team stays. We’ve been a part of our guests’ lives for literally decades. We celebrate the big moments with the people who dine here, it’s not something that happens very often.
How has the restaurant industry changed over the years?
The component of technology in the restaurant industry has helped us immensely. For example, we used to log and track certain items. Now, all of that information is tracked in the cloud and provides a lot of important data. It’s made us more efficient overall. Some things are kept the same. For El Gaucho, we have new menu items but we also have dishes that have been here since the beginning. We’re always doing things to enhance the experience for our guests.
What do you love most about working at El Gaucho?
I like that no two days are the same. The principles are the same, but it looks different every day. My approach to being a server is like a performance art show. The second the door opens, it’s showtime. The people at the table become the most important people in your life and you get to serve the best service. I love when they come in and I get to have a chance to exceed their dining expectations.
Why do you love working in Downtown Bellevue?
Being in the heart of Downtown Bellevue is the best feeling. The city feels clean and safe, and the people are amazing. Despite the tall buildings, it has a feeling of openness and maintains a sense of community here.
Where are your other favorite places to dine in Downtown?
Castilla Restaurant and Tapas Bar is one of my favorite spots. They have excellent quality and flavorful dishes. Service is attentive, and the atmosphere is casual, it feels right to be there. Cielo Cocina Mexicana is superb too, they have the best deck and heat lamps during the colder months.
Central Bar + Restaurant has outstanding service. The crew always remembers who you are and they’re not afraid to add bold flavors to their food.
Where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 5-10 years?
I think Downtown Bellevue will fill in some of the blanks in the skyline. The city will continue to be clean, colorful, pretty and accessible.
Follow El Gaucho for updates on menu items on happenings:
Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.