Young Plaza Azteca Manager Recalls Humble Beginnings as Restaurant Celebrates 4th Anniversary -- by Laura Bush Jenkins


Grueling hours at several high school and college dish-washing jobs were the start of Junior Gonzalez's lifelong passion for the restaurant industry and authentic Mexican cooking.  

Born in Northern Chicago, Junior moved back with his parents to their homeland of Guadalajara, Mexico at three and returned to the United States at twelve.  It was tough leaving friends behind and starting over in new settings, but Junior valued experiencing life in both cultures and learning two languages as he prepared for the future.

Originally, Junior studied another field in college but continued gravitating toward the culinary world.

"I worked my way up from dishwasher into prep, grill, runner, and other roles before taking chef classes," Gonzalez recalls.  

Junior continued honing his craft and learning varied roles when a friend approached him about an opportunity in Virginia Beach developing and growing the Plaza Azteca restaurant chain.  Started by two gentleman from Jalisco, Mexico in the mid-nineties, Plaza Azteca now has 38 East Coast locations.

With gratitude and a hunger for opportunity, Junior and his close friend Cristian Sanchez moved together and began working as servers.  Gradually, they earned responsibilities as managers and facilitated the launch of Plaza Azteca in Elizabeth City 3 years later.

Although it involved moving a significant distance, Junior's family supported his ambitions of growing and eventually leading a successful restaurant.  "They saw this as part of following Mexican culture," he notes.

Plaza Azteca is known within the culinary community for its fresh ingredients and authentic Mexican taste.  The chef and sous chef in Elizabeth City are from Puebla and Baja California respectively, and Plaza Azteca provides them freedom and creativity to cook in a flavorful, traditional style.

"The way we used to cook [growing up and experimenting earlier in our careers], we do it here because we love what we do," Junior mentions proudly.

"I don't keep track mentally of the hours I'm here since I'm passionate about it."

Since Junior greatly appreciates the opportunity he received, he is willing to assist those aspiring to learn the culinary industry and encourages them to meet and talk with him.

In addition, supporting others in the community is important at Plaza Azteca.  The restaurant offers discounts for first responders and teachers, and Junior and his staff are available to volunteer their time in church and school projects.

Come join Plaza Azteca on Family Sundays, where kids eat for half price and receive special visits twice a month from Julie the Clown.  In addition, look for a new menu in the next few weeks, featuring old favorites such as Burrito San Jose, along with new burrito bowls and grilled shrimp Tacos Rebeca with pico de gallo.

To learn more about Plaza Azteca, call 252 384 0163, or reach out on Facebook. You may be entered into a raffle to win a gift card or dinner for two if you like, comment, or share items on the page.
Young Plaza Azteca Manager Recalls Humble Beginnings as Restaurant Celebrates 4th Anniversary -- by Laura Bush Jenkins Young Plaza Azteca Manager Recalls Humble Beginnings as Restaurant Celebrates 4th Anniversary --  by Laura Bush Jenkins Reviewed by ken morgan on 10:05:00 PM Rating: 5
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