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Jezabel's has been a staple in its community since 2010 when it opened. Screenshot: Harrison Brink/AL DÍA News.
Jezabel's has been a staple in its community since 2010 when it opened. Screenshot: Harrison Brink/AL DÍA News.

AL DÍA Top Restaurateurs 2021: Jezabel Careaga

Careaga was one of six Philadelphia restaurateurs honored at the recent AL DÍA Top Restaurateurs presentation.

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What has been the most important challenge and achievement during the pandemic?

I think one of the most challenging things was actually being really worried about what would happen with our staff. That was like the first thing that came to my mind when all of this was going down. How are the people that work with us going to survive through this?

I can come in and work like, 15-18 hours a day and make it work, and make sure that at least all the basics are covered, but it was just really hard in that moment to announce that they could accept unemployment and then we came up with the fundraiser. All those funds went to our team, and then also, we organized a couple of drives for them to get some food, and I cooked some meals here.

The most rewarding moment may have been recently, when we knew we were going to be okay. Once the moment was like: “We made it.”

The thickest part is over, and that was at the end of December, but then you also have January and February, and March, but March is usually hit or miss — you never know if it’s going to be nice and warm like it is this year, or if it’s going to be like super cold and yucky. At the end of December I was like: “Oh my God, we made it, we’re gonna make it,” and after that it was: “Let’s just get through the Winter,” and we did really well.

Looking back on your career, reflect on your journey.

I’m a person who’s always moving forward. I might think of what happened two years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and maybe focus on the lesson, but I’m always moving forward. I’m never going back.

I think my speed forward has a good pace, so then it’s hard sometimes to slow down. I do reflect on moments, and most of the time I’m gonna hope that I take the right decision. But once I take a decision, I’m done with it. I take my decisions and I keep moving, I don’t ‘what if,” “I should have,” no, that’s not part of vocabulary. 

What do you have to say to your customers and employees?

To my customers and my team over the years, I’m just really grateful for their support. If you work in a restaurant, it’s not easy. You gotta be on your toes, you gotta keep up with the pace that we need, and I’ve had amazing people working with me throughout the years.

To Philadelphians and beyond, I’m just really grateful for everyone’s support because I love what I do. I’m gonna keep doing what I do, and the fact that people recognize that and they still show up, and they accept my evolution as a human being that translates to the evolution of my business and it is still here, that means everything.

What is your message to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Wasn’t it Steve Jobs that said: “The ones that are crazy enough to change the world are the ones that do.” So that’s what I would say.

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