City Heights is home to many ethnic restaurants representing cuisines from across the globe. Super Cocina, where one can explore the many different dishes of Mexico, has become a definite favorite among residents and organizations and an integral contributor to the community.
Juan Pablo’s father opened the original restaurant in 1988 at a Farmers Market located on 21st and Imperial and finally moved to its current location at 3627 University Ave in 1999. After college and a short season of exposure to the legal profession, Juan decided that law wasn’t the right path for him and he decided to take over managing Super Cocina when his dad talked about selling it.
Juan reflected back on those first few years with a big smile sharing how his father thought his new ideas were too radical like installing a credit card machine and soda fountain.
“If it gets too fancy, people won’t want to come!” Juan’s dad told him.
“I heed to what he says now because I believe in respecting the community that’s supported us all these years,” Juan said. “It’s important to respect what they enjoy and not necessarily fight for new customers when loyal ones have always been there for you.”
Super Cocina’s cuisine is now catered in gatherings throughout City Heights. It’s not uncommon to attend a meeting and find their rich dishes being served. Juan attributes the launch of his catering business to our own Cecilia Estrada who requested his assistance many years ago. The word spread quickly and his catering business was born!
Yet, catering and serving delicious cuisine is not the only reason Juan Pablo was chosen as our City Heights Hero. His work ethic and commitment to City Heights goes far beyond the kitchen. Early on, Juan decided to help found the City Heights Business Association at the age of 22 by invitation of Steve Russell, now the Executive Director of the San Diego Housing Federation and longtime City Heights resident. Juan has also served on the PAC (Project Area Committee) and CHAPC (City Heights Area Planning Committee) and often partners with the City Heights CDC on projects and events. Furthermore, he is a founding member of Business for Good, a progressive business association focused on continual investment in their employees, the environment, and the health of their communities.
While Juan is an innovative and conscientious businessman, he’s also a big supporter of the local small non-profits in the City Heights area. Many times, even though an organization can only give him a small budget to work with, he’ll cater a meal ensuring there’s enough for all participants to walk away satisfied and has often donated meals when a non-profit cannot afford it.
“We try to help as much as we can. I have my parents to thank for this practice,” he said and then shared with a laugh, “I’m not sure if it’s the hippy socialist in them but all my life they’ve liked to pay it forward and the community of City Heights pays it forward right back!”
Juan speaks at at the inauguration of Welcoming San Diego, an office of Immigrant Affairs with the City of San Diego held at the New Americans museum.