SEASON 1: EPISODE NUMBER: 7

EPISODE GUEST: David Lucarelli

David Lucarelli has an extensive history in the restaurant industry and now runs 15 different Sabor Latin Street Grill locations in Charlotte, NC, and surrounding areas. 

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David Lucarelli fell in love with cooking at an early age. Now director of operations for Raydal Hospitality in Charlotte, N.C. which owns Three Amigos, La Caseta, and the ultra-popular Latin street food chain, Sabor Latin Street Grill, his background has taken him from Morton’s in Chicago, Bubba Gump Shrimp in Charleston, S.C., and even all the way to a brewery in Maui (where he worked with Chris Pratt!)

Originally from an Italian neighborhood in Chicago, Lucarelli grew up with a dad who always worked in restaurants and gave him an early gig as a host at a fine-dining restaurant in Cleveland.

Lucarelli was hooked. He worked to be the best dishwasher – a position he calls the most important and under-appreciated in the business – and eventually became ‘Lightning Luke’ the fastest busboy.

“Growing up in the business you learn to value and appreciate the employees that you work with,” says Lucarelli, “and I think that’s one of the most critical things I’ve taken with me over the years.”

Lucarelli emphasizes the importance of servant leadership and being able to appreciate people and empathize with what they have. And learning from others’ strengths is critical in being a well-rounded manager.

On opening a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant in Charleston, SC, Lucarelli reflects, “Working with that staff of very creative smart people was a great help to my career.”

His career continued to charter new territories, eventually taking a break from the restaurant industry to manage resorts and even a water park. But he came back to the industry he loved with an even more well-rounded viewpoint.

It’s this varied perspective that allows Lucarelli to stay sharp on his toes in an ever-changing industry. “Prepare for the worst. Make sure that when/if the worst thing happens, make sure you’re protected.” And it takes more than just a good idea to create a successful restaurant. “You may have the greatest ideas but you need to find that niche that will bring people in you really have to blow the doors off with food quality, service quality, and cleanliness – it’s important to think that way.”

And investing in staff always proves to be beneficial for the business. Sabor Latin Street Grill tries to offer a pathway to success or a larger career through merit-based achievements and instruction. One of Lucarelli’s greatest joys is finding those that have the passion and spark for the industry and coaching them to new heights. “That binds us all together. I love nothing more than seeing employees that we hire turn into something far more successful than they originally hoped for.”

For Lucarelli, a career path that started from a love of being a line cook has seen many evolutions. “I think it’s important to keep your eyes open in your career and do what you love and love what you do. And if you do that I think everything’s going to work itself out.’

“I love nothing more than seeing employees that we hire turn into something far more successful than they originally hoped for.”

– David Lucarelli, Sabor Latin Street Grill

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