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, but (perhaps even more importantly) while they’re off it.
Today we’re hearing from Rafael, the team leader at our CAVA production kitchen in Rockville, MD — where all of our inspired dips and spreads are thoughtfully crafted for Cava Grill locations and for health-forward markets across the region. Here we go:
Tell us about what you do on the CAVA team.
I started working with CAVA about three years ago. I’m the team leader and I coordinate things inside the production kitchen so everything goes right. We have the kitchen area and the packaging area. We package the dips and spreads for Whole Foods and other stores, and we also fill the orders for the Cava Grill restaurant locations. Basically I coordinate things so everything goes smoothly.
How did you become the supervisor?
When I first started, I liked what I was doing, and what the company was doing. So I started showing interest, working to make sure everything was going right. I think the team started to notice that. And then my management team started to give me more opportunity.
I would like to keep growing with the company and becoming more of a leader. I’m hoping to take some classes about business and keep working toward promotion.
How do you help your team members improve?
We have a great team. I really like to talk to them and discuss how we can do things better. I tell them how hard work helps everybody — it helps the whole company and it helps each of us.
I’m always thinking about how this company is going to keep growing. If we take the time to work on creating top quality products, we are all going to grow with it together.
How has CAVA changed since you started?
When I started, the production was really small. Now, the team has changed and grown and the production has really increased. We didn’t originally have all the new machines that we have now, because the production wasn’t as extensive. We hand-scooped the product (crazy, right?!).
Since the production has increased and CAVA has continued to grow, we’ve added new technology to help us produce more efficiently. We’re really excited about the new larger production kitchen that we’re going to be moving into soon — we have all this new technology to help us grow and now we’re going to have the space to really make that happen.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Well, we start the day at 9am, so I get in at about 8:45am. Most of my team members are in the break room, chatting and catching up. I greet everyone and check in, and then we get to work. Throughout the day, we go through the production process, carefully prepping ingredients, working with the technology to package everything, checking quality control.
But we’re always trying to keep talking about things in our lives, too. If anyone has a problem or something going on, I try to talk about it with them and help them if I can. We have such a great team and I like being able to learn about everyone’s lives and make sure everyone has a good day.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to play tennis or go to the gym, and I also like to run. There’s a tennis court near my house. It’s not like I’m a professional at all — I just love to play with my friends. It’s how I unwind after work.
Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world.
I really like New York City. I love going there to walk around Times Square, explore downtown, and then maybe go to some of the nightclubs there.
But if I could go anywhere, I would go to Spain. I would love to travel around different parts of the country, eat some great food, learn about the people. I speak the language so that helps, right?
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I’m from El Salvador, so I usually make pupusas. The traditional ones are made with cheese and then there’s a mixture made of pork and cheese – those are my favorites. I usually make a salsa and a slaw with cabbage and vinegar, too.
Do you have any favorite food memories?
I’ve always liked trying new things. I remember I used to watch a TV program where they teach you how to cook. And I remember one day, I tried one of the recipes they were making. I went to the store, bought all the stuff I was supposed to need… and then in the end, things didn’t go right at all. It didn’t taste good, and I had to trash everything. It was something made out of mashed potatoes, I think. That’s something that I’ll always remember. It definitely didn’t work [laughs].
My mom got mad at me, too, because I bought all of these ingredients and then it didn’t even work out. I learned a lot about cooking from watching her.
Which CAVA dip is your favorite?
The traditional hummus and the Crazy Feta. The Crazy Feta is just so, so good. The jalapeños that make it a little spicy are great.
What’s your go-to CAVA order?
I’ve been going to the Cava Grill in Silver Spring probably twice a week since it opened. I get a bowl with white rice and lentils, chicken, traditional hummus, and Crazy Feta. And then I like to add tomato and cucumber, cabbage, and olives. And my favorite dressing is the lemon herb tahini.