A veteran chef, culinary expert, and lover of all things food, Richard Sandoval holds a prestigious name in the Mexican food fraternity. Let’s have a look at Richard’s long established journey.
Growing up in Mexico City, Richard would join his grandmother in the kitchen and gather around her large table with family to enjoy lively Mexican feasts prepared from scratch. He learned to respect fresh, authentic ingredients and create the vibrant flavors that turned family dinners into celebrated events.
Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Richard opened his flagship restaurant Maya in New York in 1997. Maya remains open today! Now, he owns a global hospitality group that has opened over 45 restaurants around the globe. The US restaurant locations include the District of Colombia, Arizona, California, Colorado, DC, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia- as well as internationally in countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Nevis, Qatar, Serbia, Turkey, and the UAE.
Chef Richard’s USP is his “made from scratch” approach and his passion for introducing Latin cuisine to the world. He continues to find inspiration by combining Latin ingredients with international flavors and inventive techniques to create one-of-a-kind concepts and cuisines that include modern and coastal Mexican, Latin-Asian, Peruvian and Pan-Latin.
About Richard Sandoval Hospitality
In the 25 years since Richard’s first restaurant debuted, he has opened about 60-70 restaurants and travels nearly 400k miles a year. He believes that it’s of utmost importance to visit all restaurants around the world regularly to ensure that they are maintaining the highest standards. Also, it helps Richard gain new insights, perspectives, and experiences to learn about the global market. The time is spent researching to discover new markets and tap into flavors customers didn’t yet know they wanted. “More recently, we have started focusing we have focused primarily on opening food and beverage concepts within hotels on opening restaurants in hotels. We are very fortunate to have built so many great relationships with luxury hotel brands over the years”, asserts Richard.
Following the Footsteps of his Father
Richard’s father was a restaurateur in Acapulco, and he learned a lot about the business side of restaurants from him. Inspired by his father’s pursuits and driven by his sheer passion for cooking, Richard decided to step into the hospitality industry.
Having the culinary knowledge from both my childhood with my grandmother and my time at the CIA combined with the knowledge from my father – I felt I had the right “recipe” for success.
A Time of Hardships
When Richard started, it was much harder to get people to understand modern Mexican food at that time. People saw Mexican food as fast-casual or Tex-Mex, not fine dining – or they thought that everything had to be smothered in cheese or unhealthy. Recognizing this gap in that current setting, it was Richard’s goal to change the way people thought of Mexican cuisine. He wanted to put a modern spin on it. 20 years ago, Mexican wasn’t a global cuisine. Today, one can find Mexican cuisine all over the world. He feels extremely proud to have showcased his culture on a global scale.
More recently, the biggest challenge has been dealing with different pandemic regulations and major staffing shortages from Snowmass to Serbia and from Denver to Abu Dhabi. The entire industry has been grappling with historic labor pressures and it’s not looking like it’s going to get better any time soon. The difficult times have taught the company to think on its feet and get creative with ways it can overcome this and stay profitable. All you can do is stay positive and always think of ways to stay afloat in difficult times. We are so lucky that we have continued to open restaurants during this pandemic and several more opening in 2022.
Move Uphill with Integrating Technology and R&D
As hospitality continues to be one of the fastest-paced and most ever-changing industries (at least in Richard’s opinion). He always believes it’s important to double down on investments with technology and R&D to continue to meet its guests’ expectations. Hospitality is all about anticipating needs before their guests realize they want them, so translating that into technology-based solutions has been important for his business over the years, now more so than ever.
Richard pens his Version of Success
Success for me is finding solutions where my customer wins, my company wins, and when the community wins as well as giving my guests memorable dining experiences they will never forget. The cuisine in Mexico is meant to be shared and enjoyed with family and friends – that lively, convivial culture is what I hope to bring to every table at my restaurants.
Richard’s Summons his Journey as a Business Leader
Leadership is an ongoing journey, not a destination. There are constant challenges on both the business and culinary sides – but the important thing is to remain positive and surround yourself with people that will mirror that positivity and have the same high-reaching goals.
The Proud Moments
Richard’s most unforgettable achievement was receiving two stars from The New York Times when he opened Maya. At that time, there weren’t any Mexican restaurants were receiving that sort of accolade in New York. His James Beard Nomination for “Outstanding Restaurateur” was a proud moment as well. He is also proud of all his teams from all over the world that have earned their restaurants accolades and awards throughout the years.
Richard thinks a lot of his success comes from the people who surround and support him. He has an excellent team of people that are dedicated, passionate, and care about what they do. Each of his team members has his DNA, they just don’t know how to stop caring and they are passionate about what they do. It’s an honor to work with a great team, have a good rapport, and serve with the same vision.
The pandemic has pushed our team to work harder and with more moxie than perhaps ever before. We’re motivated by the common goal of being true hospitality professionals – how do we take care of our guests?
The Art of Saying “No”
Richard has decades of rich experience. He is an inspiration to young entrepreneurs, who are stepping into the world of business and entrepreneurship. His key advice to the aspirants is Learning how to say no. In the years, when you are building yourself and your company, it’s important to stand back from the choices that are presented to you and take time to evaluate them before saying yes to everything. Like Richard Branson said: “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”
He asks the budding entrepreneurs to believe in themselves. Any time one has the passion and dedication towards anything they will succeed and people will recognize their work. Richard concludes by reciting his favorite quote, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau
The Next Moves
Currently, Richard Sandoval Hospitality restaurants span four continents (five with an upcoming opening in Morocco) and many different markets, concepts, and guests. What they all have in common is they want authenticity, quality, and experiences they can “own” and maybe even, that are extensions of themselves.
Often people ask Richard, “How many restaurants until you stop? What’s the magic number?” and he fondly replies, “It’s never been about a number. I love what I do. I love creating. To be able to work with my chefs, to create a new restaurant with a different style of cuisine and different mixology, that excites me”.