How I Got Here: Katya Torres de la Rocha

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with MexGrocer CEO Katya Torres de la Rocha

Related tags: Mexican cuisine, Mexican food, Restaurant, Retailing

Former restaurateur Katya Torres de la Rocha, who now runs online retailed MexGrocer, on the importance of planning ahead, and why front-of-house should be a career to aspire to.

Why restaurants?
I opened a restaurant for several reasons. Firstly it was a business opportunity and there were very few decent Mexican restaurants in London in 2004. Also, I love, and live for food. I know a lot of people in the industry and I had experience in the field, but I left the restaurants in 2011 to start MexGrocer, which supplies restaurants, shops and food producers.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Make a plan for three years and then work out the way to do it in 12 months. Trust your instinct, and invest in technology quicker.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
I like restaurants that offer something unique. Some of my favourites include: Coya, Galvin at Windows, and Sexy Fish.

What motivates you?
Helping with the social justice through going about business with a ‘win-win’ attitude.

What keeps you up at night?
Working out how to solve problems, how to improve the company or a particular process we’re struggling with. Dreaming of exploring new business opportunities.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I have been extremely lucky to have good mentors and employers I looked up to, but I have been doing business on my own since I was 24. Many inspiring people have come into my life since, including my husband.

What time do you wake up?

Coffee or tea?
Coffee definitely.

How often do you check your email?
Every five to ten minutes, unless I am sleeping, eating or in the shower.

How do you let off steam?
GYM! I exercise at least eight hours a week.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Tiles, but from time to time the sofa is nice.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Cod fish Veracruz style with cappers, olives, tomato and large chillies.

Typical Sunday?
Work out, long walks, shopping, and a Sunday roast with my children.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Move to the UK.

Favourite holiday destination?
Japan - I love the people, food and culture. Secondly Peru, same story - culture, food and people.

What boxset are you currently watching?

What was your dream job growing up?
Marine biologist! Jacque Custou was my hero as a child.

Worst business decision?
Entering into a partnership with people who had a backwards way of thinking, rather than looking forward.

Best business decision?
Leaving the restaurants to start MexGrocer.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Do your homework, research, work hard, take advice, do what the big boys do, and do not give up with your first setback.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Professionalism of service: people look at waiting or bar tending as a means to an end rather than as a profession and something to aspire to.


Born in Guerrero, Mexico, Katya studied business at University La Salle, and went on to do a master degree in Finance at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Having worked for several companies, Katya proposed her own business plan for outsourcing HR to her then employer in 1998, and successfully secured investment. In 2000 she bought a restaurant, which she sold in 2004 in order to to launch her own group of Mexican restaurants. The business grew to four sites, with locations in London and Madrid. Katya launched MexGrocer in 2009, and sold her last shares at the restaurants in 2011.

Related topics: People

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