We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, our vibes, with others. And we couldn’t do that without every one of our CAVA team members. It’s a fanaticism that can’t be faked – it’s a passion we just have to share.
So we’re hearing straight from our team about how they savor life – not just while they’re on the clock at your go-to CAVA location, but (perhaps even more importantly) while they’re off it.
Today we’re hearing from Edward, the Assistant Manager at our Bethesda location. This profile is especially exciting for us, because Edward has been with our team since CAVA’s very first location opened in Bethesda five years ago.
How did you get started with CAVA?
I was working at another restaurant across the street in Bethesda — I started working when I was 15 and I was 19 at that time. I remember I saw the signs saying, “CAVA, coming soon.” So I crossed the street and asked the CEO, who was standing outside, if he was hiring. He said to come back the next day and talk to Rob, the director of operations.
So I came back and Rob interviewed me, and told me how that was going to be the very first store CAVA location. And then he said, “Congratulations, you’re the first CAVA team member we’ve ever hired.”
What made you decide to cross the street that day?
I had my first son at a very young age, and then my girlfriend was pregnant with our second son — so I needed to work two jobs at that time. That second job was the best chance I got.
What lessons have you learned in your time at CAVA?
This has basically been my school, my first management experience. I don’t see myself above anybody else, though — I’ve been there. I started behind the line, and now I’m a salaried manager. I like working with my team — making sure they’re smiling and making the customer happy.
The funny thing is, when I’m actually at home, sometimes I feel like I’m not at home.
This is my house. And the people I get to work with every day — they’re my second family.
CAVA is a family. That’s how I see it.
Do you have any favorite stories or memories from the past 5 years?
When we first opened our Tysons Corner location, there was one time when we got the wrong straws sent in our supply order, and Brett [CAVA’s CEO] was frustrated. So he called me over saying, “Is this the kind of straw we have?” And I was like, “Hell no!” I broke it in half and then he was like, “See? It wasn’t the same one; he knew it.” I know our restaurants inside and out — and I knew I could say what I thought.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I’d say our pre-shift meeting. It’s the beginning of the day and we’re talking to our team and setting our expectations for the day. That’s the most important part of the day.
I have fun with it because I’m kind of shy, but at the same time, when I get going, I’m going. At first, when we started, I had a really hard time with talking in front of everyone, but Kevin (the Chinatown general manager) would be like, “Just go! You’ll get used to it.” And now I love doing it! Kevin’s a great coach.
What do you do when you’re not here?
My motivation: my kids! They’re the reason for everything. Every time I get off work, I go to see them and spend time with them. Sometimes, when it’s not that cold, we go to the park and play touch football.
My kids are my motivation; I can’t see myself without them. They’re the reason I wake up every morning.
I like to cook, so when I’m at home, my older son sees me in the kitchen. It’s the same as it was with my mom. I was always in the kitchen trying to cook, trying to learn recipes. And when my son sees me cooking, he just wants to be there: “Can I help you cut this? Can I help you do that?”
What’s your go-to dish?
I love this Dominican rice dish called Moro. It’s beans, cilantro, peppers — just beans and rice and vegetables cooked together. That with some roasted chicken is the best. It’s my mom’s recipe. I used to eat like three plates of it.
I make it exactly the same way she does. There have been times when she says, “You’re never going to get it like I do.” And I’m like, “Yes I can!”
Any favorite food memories?
Quipe. It’s like falafel but bigger, and it has beef inside and is made of out of wheat — kind of like a dumpling. That’s one of my favorite things that she used to cook. I used to love it with ketchup.
What’s something that not many people know about you?
One thing that a lot of people don’t know? A few years ago, I was going through some really tough issues, personal stuff. I thought I would have to leave CAVA. And I told Rob what was going on. He said, “I’m here to help. We’ll make this work. You’re not leaving this job.”
That’s something I will never forget.
[Rob and Brett] helped me. They didn’t have to do anything, it wasn’t their responsibility. They could have replaced me. To this day, I won’t stop saying thank you to them. It’s been four years already, and I’m still saying thank you.
What do you think you did that made Rob and Brett know they wanted to help?
Loyalty. And hard work. Rob has told me, “You’ve got something that a lot of people don’t have, something you can’t be coached on.” I always want to make sure customers leave happy. I think that’s what they saw in me. That I care about the restaurant — since day one and to this day.
Do you have any favorite customer interactions?
There was a famous actor who came into Tenleytown and I recognized him. I was like, “Aren’t you the guy from [that movie]?” And just like that, he said he was. I was so afraid to ask him to take a picture and sign my shirt, but one of my coworkers went right up to him and said, “that guy wants your autograph.” Then I was so embarrassed, but I went over and he was really cool about it.
And then I also met Bryce Harper, the baseball player, here at Chinatown a few times. He was so chill, just talking to us for like 15 minutes. I get starstruck but it’s so cool when those people come into CAVA.
What do you think CAVA will be like in the next 5 years?
A lot of restaurants are starting to become healthier and I think this is a big example of what the next generation is going to look like. It’ll be the next big thing. It already is actually, I think.
What’s your go-to order?
I’ve been eating the same thing since I’ve worked here: rice, grilled meatballs, harissa, and hummus, with cabbage, tomatoes and onions, tomatoes and cucumbers, and sriracha Greek yogurt. And sometimes I mix in a little spinach. My favorite juice is the strawberry mint lime, but lately I’ve been drinking the pineapple apple mint.