On March 27, 2019, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation celebrated restaurant industry stars at the annual Restaurant Industry Awards, in Washington, DC.
The Texas Restaurant Association was proud to have one of its members, Francisco “Paco” Vargas (Vargas Cut & Catch by Paco, Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar) as a recipient of one of three Faces of Diversity American Dream Awards. This prestigious award honors those who have achieved success through perseverance and determination, embodying the American Dream.
Francisco “Paco” Vargas left Nicaragua for the United States in 1978 to escape the bloody Nicaraguan Revolution. He spoke very little English and arrived with only $500 in his pocket, but had the business card of a man named Mitchell he had met years earlier who told him, “Call me if you ever come to America.” He called, and was given a job as dishwasher and cook at the famed Houston Plaza Club.
Life was difficult at first. He made little money and often slept on the cold floor. But Paco was hardworking and always eager to learn. He quickly moved up through the organization.
In 1996, he partnered with Rudy Teichman to open his own restaurant, the Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar. The venture was a success, and was chosen as one of the top 100 restaurants in America by OpenTable.
In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated the area, and Paco’s beloved restaurant was flooded and totally destroyed. He once again started from scratch, rebuilt the restaurant and reopened on Easter weekend in 2009. Eventually, Paco decided he needed a new challenge and traveled the country to discover what makes a great steakhouse. After more than a year of construction, Paco launched Vargas Cut & Catch by Paco, a prime steak and seafood house where his children, Juan and Denise, greet customers nightly.
Paco gives back to the community by helping his employees and neighbors find their own path to success. He is a firm believer in “give, get or get off.” He continues to mentor his employees and takes pride in the number of kids he has helped through college. He created the Paco Vargas Scholarship Fund and has pledged $100,000 to benefit students in hospitality, restaurant management or service industry programs. He is also a board member of the Grand Opera House and the Galveston County Restaurant Association.
Paco’s tireless efforts to better the lives of others in his community are honored every year in Galveston on October 1, which has been officially designated “Paco Vargas Day.”