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National Restaurant Association - Del Campo owner’s family lessons forge successful career

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Del Campo owner’s family lessons forge successful career

Victor Albisu, chef-owner of Del Campo, a South American restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C., and Taco Bamba taqueria in Falls Church, Va., says the influences of his Peruvian mother and Cuban father are responsible for his success today.

“My heritage means a lot to me,” he said. “The people I most admire in my life are my family — my mother, grandfather and grandmother. These are people who are very proud to be Cuban, Peruvian and American. Their instilling of a ‘hard work pays off/do what you love’ mentality had a huge influence on me, plus the food and convivial existence is something I was always drawn to.”

But Albisu, who worked in his family’s various restaurants throughout his childhood and while in college, did not always intend to be a chef. The Northern Virginia native first set out to work in government and policy. He graduated from college with a degree in international relations and governmental policy from George Mason University and was working in international development, hoping to pursue a career in diplomacy.

“But I was bored by it all and felt confined in a cubicle,” he said. “I didn’t enjoy the sense that satisfaction wasn’t immediate. I’d worked in my family’s restaurants my whole life, and as the son of a Cuban immigrant father and Peruvian mother, [working in a restaurant] was never meant to be my career. I was expected to wear a suit every day and do something that sounded really important.”

Despite those expectations, he decided to move to Paris and immerse himself in the food culture there. He ended up attending Le Cordon Bleu, where he got his technical training.

“I left my whole life behind to study the cooking techniques of the masters in Europe,” he said. “It was an amazing experience that left an indelible mark on my life and career.”

Despite learning from the French masters, Albisu said the cooks who had the most impact on his life are the Mexican and Salvadoran ones who worked alongside him in his family’s restaurants when he was a child.

“They inspired me to open Taco Bamba,” he said. “We used to make tacos and traditional Mexican food for the family meal on a daily basis. It quickly became my food, part of my every day. When people ask me why I opened a taqueria if I’m not Mexican, I tell them I feel pretty Mexican sometimes even if my roots aren’t from there. I’ve come to know and love that culture and food very much.”

Asked how he has given back to the people and culture that helped shape him, Albisu said he has traveled to Peru and interacted with many cooks, farmers and business owners and shared ideas with them on how to solve the problem of malnutrition there and grow more food or better quality food.

“The restaurant industry has allowed me to not only make a living, be creative and employ people, but also help and influence policy through so many charitable organizations,” he said. “I feel very fortunate.”

Pictured top right: Victor Albisu in the dining room at Del Campo restaurant

Visit America Works Here to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and all of the opportunities the restaurant industry provides.

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