Abel Banuelas and Miriam Tapia are Olive Garden through and through. They met at an Olive Garden restaurant in Texas. They have devoted their 20-year careers to the brand, she mostly as a host and he as a culinary assistant. And Olive Garden provided a family backdrop as they raised their two children and started them in college on the way to their own careers.
Abel had studied engineering in college in Mexico at his parents’ urging, but when he moved to the United States in 1988, a friend taught him about cooking and he fell in love with the culinary world.
He joined Olive Garden in 1998 as a line cook and has worked at his current Houston location for five years. As a trainer for new restaurant openings, he has seen the country, but most of all, he loves being in the kitchen. “I love recipes and cooking and teaching people. It is my passion. Even after 20 years, I am excited to come to work every morning.”
Miriam was hired in 1999 as a busser and remembers turning 21 at Olive Garden. Her team brought out a cake and sang to her. The family environment is one of the reasons she has stayed. “I would not change my choices,” she said. “I have a great husband and family, and working at Olive Garden got us where we are today.”
Abel and Miriam, who works at the Spring, TX, location, have been married 24 years. “They both share a passion for people that has kept them with us,” said Steven Long, Abel’s general manager. “Abel and Miriam play huge roles in the culture and success of their restaurants, and they can be counted on by managers and fellow team members alike.”
Daryl L. Cunningham, the general manager at Miriam’s restaurant, agrees. "Miriam and Abel's story should touch anyone with a heart. Miriam is an indispensable part of our restaurant, and their shared experience is a beautiful reminder of the success you can achieve while working for Olive Garden."
The couple’s daughter earned a political science degree and is headed to law school. Their son has started college and hopes to study accounting. “They were glad we were happy at Olive Garden,” Abel said. “I told them to follow their dreams. Olive Garden has treated us very well. This is what I chose to do, and I feel good about it. I’m blessed.”