Esteban Mejia, who started with Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen nearly 20 years ago as a dishwasher, has cooked up a satisfying career with the brand as a culinary manager in Knoxville, TN.
“Part of my role — and the best part — is teaching the culinary team so they can give the best of our kitchen to our guests,” Esteban said. He has been with Cheddar’s since 2000, and he helped open about 30 new restaurants, including his current restaurant in 2012.
He worked as a dishwasher only a couple of months before Director of Operations Jonathan Long, who was then the kitchen manager at Esteban’s restaurant, gave him an opportunity to learn other kitchen positions. He mastered them and became a trainer.
It was at his first new restaurant opening in 2003 that he decided to dedicate his career to Cheddar’s. “I met leaders of the company who encouraged me to learn new things,” he said. “I made mistakes, but I learned from them.”
He not only learned, he excelled, said Managing Partner Matthew Bradford. “Esteban’s knowledge and skills in the kitchen are second to none. His passion for plate presentation and food quality shows every day, even when he's not here, which says a lot about his leadership skills. He loves our guests, interacts with them in the dining room and understands that they are the reason we are here.”
Esteban, who has been a culinary manager since 2012, is proud of his achievements. “A lot of people in the company know my work and what I’m capable of,” he said. He’s equally proud of his supportive family — his wife, Pamela, and their four children.
He said he can’t choose a favorite Cheddar’s entrée because he has two — the Grilled Salmon (prepared Blackened with Bourbon Glaze) and the Chicken Tenders.
“I’m dedicated to my job and enjoy the challenge of making our restaurant more successful,” Esteban said. “We can give our guests anything they want if they have allergies or are on special diets because everything we serve is made to order from scratch. I’m proud of that.”