Raymond (Ray) Alvarez started his professional career in high school by joining the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) in his culinary arts class at Granada Hills High School in 1998. He had caught wind that the program offered students scholarships to culinary school through a series of competitions and GPA. He then inquired with his instructor Silvia Riemann about the student the year before who received a scholarship. Little did he know that that would slingshot him into the restaurant industry for the rest of his life.
He competed in the C-CAP preliminary competition in May of 2000 and did well enough to qualify for the final competition. As a finalist, he was awarded a scholarship to the Art Institute of California – Los Angeles, in Santa Monica.
While going to school full time, and also working full time, Ray learned quickly how the industry ran…at full speed ahead! During his two years at the Art Institute, Ray worked full time at the Odyssey, a large banquet and restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, and at the Jonathan Club, a private beach club in Santa Monica.
Before Ray graduated from school, he was approached by a General Manager from the Santa Catalina Island County Club on Catalina Island and was interviewed for an Executive Chef role with the company. After countless interviews and tastings, he was hired as the executive chef at the Santa Catalina Country Club on Catalina Island at the age of 20, where he worked for 2 years.
Upon returning to the Los Angeles area he was hired at Ciudad restaurant, owned by the two hot tamales, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. From being hired on as a line cook, Ray worked his way back up to kitchen Manager and then Sous Chef. He worked at their downtown location for four years learning many things about Latin America Cuisine. Here, with the girls, Ray will learn the ins and outs of Latin flavors and Mexican regional cooking. The two hot tamales then transferred Ray to their flagship restaurant Border Grill in Santa Monica, as their executive sous chef. Here, Ray ran their catering department, restaurant, and their taco truck project.
After 6 years with the two hot tamales, Ray resigned from the company to join forces with the Morton family, Harry, to be exact. He was scouted by the young owner and the director of operations for 2 weeks before getting offered the position of corporate executive chef of Pink Taco. As Corp chef, Ray began getting systems in place, updating menus, and training staff for a new Pink Taco on Sunset Blvd. Unfortunately, there were construction and permit issues, which elongated the open.
After a couple of years and no expansion with Pink Taco, Ray decided to move on to do some consulting. He was hired by Frank Tucker (Lele Hospitality) and Kelley Jones (Trust 3 Hospitality) to oversee the overhaul of the historic Malibu Inn. There Raymond worked hand in hand with the well-known restaurateurs of Las Vegas.
After the completion of the Malibu project, Ray then joined Ron Newman (Red Onion) and his son Greg Newman (Baja Sharkeez) to create their new fine dining Mexican concept Palmilla Cocina y Tequila. This concept was a new venture for the father and son partnership. When Ray’s contract ended he then approached the two and asked what they wanted to do. “well its that time, I will have to start looking for a new job, OR you can keep me around and hire me to oversee your entire company”…Ray was then hired to come on full time and oversee their eight (8) stores. From traveling from Santa Barbara through Hermosa Beach and all the way down to Huntington Beach and Newport Beach on a daily basis. After 4 years with the Sharkeez group, Ray decided to further his learning and career and seek a new change.
Ray was recruited by Brad Metzger’s firm, Restaurant Solutions, to join forces with Tosh Berman and Amrou Almanaseer in a new venture called Toca Madera, a shared plate Mexican concept. Ray had been hired to incorporate his “Barrio Style Fine Dinning” into this dinner and late-night lounge concept. A couple of years after putting together Toca Madera, Ray put together their newest concept called Tocaya Organica in Venice and in West Hollywood. A new style of upscale fast-casual, which he calls, “fresh casual”.
After moving on from Toca Madera and Tocaya Organica, Raymond went back to consulting. The first stop was to the long-time standing Beso Hollywood location, owned by Eva Longoria. Now Viva Hollywood, Ray has reopened the space with his traditional Mexican flare, serving small plates to the who’s who of the Hollywood scene. Viva, offering live entertainment, high-end food, and a fully re renovated dining room and bar. The next stop was to a traditional Chinese restaurant with a new-age flare called Li Orient in downtown Los Angeles. Here Raymond brought in his western flare to old school Chinese recipes.
After a year of consulting, Ray got homesick and returned to the Sharkeez group as their corporate chef once again.