Daily Archives: August 8, 2008

Just Add Faith: How Carlito Jocson found God and the perfect recipe for success

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Meet Carlito Jocson, one of the partners and Corporate Executive Chef of Yard House Restaurants. A simple fellow with grand taste, this forty-year-old lives to love his family and cook astounding dishes that will floor any food connoisseur. But there is also something behind this relaxed chef, a certain peace and profundity that is as inspiring as the food he lays at your table. This is his story.

The saga begins

“Being Filipino, we love to eat,” begins Carlito’s tale. This food-loving household provided an interesting environment for Carlito. While other kids were taking out the trash, the Jocson kids were prepping food for their mother’s dishes. As his teen years came, he found himself seeking the kitchen even outside the home.

Little Chef

At fifteen, Carlito was at Chez Panache in Fullerton, a fine food emporium that served food as well. A restaurant far head of its time, it introduced the wide-eyed young man to black truffles, wine and caviar long before fine dining was commonplace.

It didn’t take very long before he was in with the big boys. He became head line cook for the dinner shift. He was a senior in high school at this time, surreptitiously disappearing every night from his seemingly normal teenage life to seriously play with pots and pans.

He was doing his pre-med at UCLA when a food writer from the Los Angeles Times moseyed into Chez Panache for the customary restaurant critique. The writer called Carlito over after the last bite saying: “I understand you want to be a doctor. But you are going to make a lot more people happy by feeding them than healing them.” The very next day, Carlito quit school and put on his chef’s toque permanently.

A turn for the better

He moved through a couple of restaurants learning everything he could before landing at an ultra-upscale Italian restaurant in Costa Mesa called Antonello’s. He did so well that when the head chef decided to leave, he left the fate of Antonello’s solely in Carlito’s 25-year old hands.

Life was good and only got better. During this time, Carlito met wife Elizabeth, the instant attraction and connection saw them married two months later.

A turn for the worse

After five years at Antonello’s, Carlito wanted to try something else. With the help of a mentor and friend, he put together a quick-service vegetarian restaurant. Despite an entire year of near-slavish conditions to bring it to life, the enterprise failed.

Carlito decided to take a break from it all. He wanted to get to know the family he had neglected– to be a loving partner to Elizabeth and a caring father to his children. They came to Jesus, became Christians and discovered a new chapter in their lives and came to a new understanding of who God was. Despite all the good in their hearts, life still dealt them blow after blow.


“Life felt like it just kept going down.” Carlito and Elizabeth’s relationships with their respective families were deteriorating. There was no job for him. With no one to reach out to but God, the devastated Jocson family found themselves homeless. Everything they owned was stuffed into their Volkswagen Jetta.

Nowhere to go but up

“God works in the realm of miracles,” declared Carlito. “He gives when you can’t stand it anymore.” And indeed God gave, in the form of a magical phone call and an angel named Harald Herrman, an ex-colleague. “I have something for you,” came Harald’s voice on the line and told Carlito to come by one Monday. Carlito walked into Harald’s office Monday morning and was hired on the spot. Harald was in food operations, the Yard House was going through a major reorganization. “The only guy I want to handle the food is you.”

Yard House of dreams

Carlito revamped the entire menu in time to open their first restaurant in Long Beach in 1996. With absolutely no expectations, Carlito worked hard and true, content with having time with his family and time for God. For the first time, Carlito felt like he was fulfilling the ministry God gave him- to be there for his wife and kids. “I believe God created me for excellence, to do my best in everything I do. So I did.”

Yard House opened restaurants all over Southern California and now that a huge national level opportunity has come up, Carlito will continue to man the helm of the kitchen in each and every single restaurant.

“Today, everyone is so results-oriented, you know, focused on the results. I like to focus on the process. To be in the moment and God will take care of the rest. We’re only in control of the moment.” So carpe diem my friends. Live, love and the Lord will have your back.”



Filed under Feature, FilAm News