We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, and 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 – even more importantly – while they’re off it.

On this Veterans Day, we’re chatting with Nestor, a supervisor at CAVA Mission Viejo and former Marine. Nestor credits his four years in the Marine Corps for the skills and tenacity that helped him land a recent promotion – from grill cook to supervisor. Today, we’re chatting with Nestor about his service, his proudest moments, and his protein-filled go-to CAVA bowl!

Tell us a little bit about what you do for CAVA.
When I first started at CAVA, I was actually a team member. I was helping the guests, serving food, making sure everyone had a good experience, and whatnot. And then slowly I grew into becoming a grill cook and then I was recently promoted to a supervisor – just a few days ago, actually!

Congratulations! That’s exciting.
Thank you! It’s very exciting.

Did you have any experience in the restaurant industry before working at CAVA?
I got started in my high school days, actually. My first food industry job was a Burger King. It’s nothing like CAVA, but it taught me the ropes and got me interested in hospitality and working with food.

So, what were you doing before CAVA?
I was in the Marine Corps for the four years prior to starting at CAVA.

First of all, thank you very much for your service. What was your military service like?
I was stationed right here in California, at Camp Pendleton, and served as a radio operator. It was a very enjoyable experience. I’ve met a lot of different types of people, different personalities and backgrounds, and learned to work well as a team.

Nestor Virgen, CAVA Mission Viejo

Do you feel like that experience prepared you or contributed to what you do now?
Definitely. We work together as a team every day. We help each other and work together so that the customer has a great experience. As we say at CAVA – you’re only as strong as your weakest link. And we make sure there are no weak links on our team.What other types of skills or lessons did you learn in your military service that you still use in your everyday life as a civilian?

The Marine Corps ingrained determination, discipline, and teamwork into me. Those were the three main things that I learned. And in CAVA, as well as in school and other aspects of my life, I use these skills every day.

I use teamwork with my classmates. I use teamwork here at work with my CAVA team members.

I use discipline to be on time and do my job well every single day. And determination is what got me to this new position as a supervisor. I was determined to do my job well enough to move upwards at CAVA.

So, the Marine Corps really shaped you into who you are today.
Everything you learn in the Marine Corps goes into your life afterward. I will keep what I learned as a Marine for the rest of my life.

What do you like to do for fun, when you’re not at CAVA?
Woodworking is one of my passions. I’ve actually built a few things for my family.

So, what attracted you to CAVA? How did you hear about the job?

I actually had never heard of CAVA before. I needed a job and saw an ad. I looked it up and said “Yeah, why not?” Then, I tasted the food and fell in love.

What was it about the food that got you?
There were so many different flavors and so many different ways to make a bowl, as well as the spices and quality of the proteins.

What do you like about CAVA Mission Viejo?
It’s a fun and interactive job. We work well together as a team. If anybody has a problem, even if it’s outside of work, we help each other. There’s a real sense of community.

What has been your proudest moment working at CAVA?
There was this one shift when we were down a couple of people. We had just three people at that shift for one reason or another. Just me, the grill cook, and the supervisor at the time. The line was getting really busy and we had to move extra fast. I had to do everything myself. And then at the end of the rush, when the next shift started showing up, the supervisor handed me one of our team Values Cards that rewards and recognizes when we go above and beyond in our jobs.

They saw that I had helped everyone – the grill cook, the supervisor, the prep, and the guests, of course. That meant a lot.

That’s amazing. That determination, discipline, and teamwork from your military service definitely came in handy when you had to buckle down and make things happen that day!

Nestor Virgen, CAVA Mission Viejo, raises a CAVA juice cup.

What is it about the CAVA culture and values that you like?

My favorite CAVA value is transparency. At CAVA, you can see the grill cook grilling right in front of you. You can ask questions and trust where the food comes from and how it’s prepared.

For example, my brother has celiac disease, unfortunately, so he has to eat a strict gluten-free diet. And we take allergies very seriously here.

So, we can’t wrap up without finding out: What’s your go-to CAVA meal?
My perfect bowl… I start with a little bit of spinach, a little bit of brown rice, and then I go to the dips: Red Pepper Hummus is my favorite. Then, it’s Crazy Feta because I want a little bit of spice but not too much. Then, I get half chicken, half braised lamb. And then I go for the extras and add half beef and half spicy lamb. And then for the toppings, I get cucumbers, pickled banana peppers, pickled onions, crumbled feta, cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh – and finish it all up with Lemon Herb Tahini. It’s a really good bowl.

Photos by Jorge Lopez.

We’re looking for passionate and positive go-getters like Nestor to join our growing CAVA team. Think you’re the one for the job? Join us.