» I was born in the Philippines. My dad was in the Navy. He retired in Louisiana. By the time I turned 18, he was like, “OK, it’s time for you guys to ship over here.” I’m the oldest of nine siblings. It’s a his, hers and ours combination. My mother was the hostess with the mostest. If there was a party, it would end up at our house. I get the technical side of my personality from my dad, also the humility, the politeness. The tenacity comes from my mom.
» I’ve always been in food service. My first job was in a Chinese restaurant in Louisiana. I worked at the Capital Hotel for 18 years. Now I’m at Cache. I wanted a fresh start. Just to see if I can share what I do and get Cache off to a good start. I call it spreading Jo Jo’s love.
» I look at this industry like a stage. I have to make sure everyone is happy. I like to live in a happy world. What you see is what you get with me. I’m an open book. I like to take charge of the situation. I look at it as a challenge. You never know who’s going to come in and what mood they’re in. I guess I’ve got a little gift of being able to read people. I like to look in people’s eyes, and I can pretty much judge, “OK, this is the road that we have to take.”
» One time I waited on this guy from New York who had every allergy known to man. We literally had to open a new saute pan that had never been used because it couldn’t have any residue of salt and pepper. He could only drink a certain vodka because he’s allergic to the other ingredients. For five minutes, we were doing this tango, and so I pretty much told him, “Dude, why don’t you just off yourself. You can’t have any good food.” That guy turned from being this really strong Italian influence, “I know everything ’cause I’m from New York” kind of guy to saying, “I love you! Oh my God, no one’s ever told me to off myself because of my allergies!”
» You want people to have a good experience. That’s what it is, it’s an experience. It’s not just about the food. It has to have a soul, a character, so that when they can go home they go, “You know what, that place is fun.” That’s kind of my middle name.
» Look people in the eye. Family of five walks in. Mom, dad, three kids. Each one had a phone. They never looked me in the eye when they walked in. Within two minutes of greeting them, they still hadn’t made eye contact with me. I pretty much said, “I’m not going to feed you guys until I collect all of your phones.” The mother looked at me like, “Oh my God, did you really say that?” She was embarrassed. She started telling her kids, “Yeah, we need to do this.” Then I said, “Now, see each others faces. Have you seen them in a while?”
» I’ve waited on presidents, dignitaries, actors, comedians, the tattooed guy that bartends down the street. Everyone for the most part is memorable.
» When people say, “Why don’t you get a real job?” I say, “I have a real job.” I’ve raised four kids. Three are in the military. I’m actually a grandmother. I’m closing in on the big 5-0. My family is my emphasis. If they’re happy, I’m happy. I worry a lot more now that I’m getting older, but I’ve got my husband to help buffer that. Riding motorcycles with him helps. It’s the best stress reliever.
As told to Lindsey Millar.