Co-owner of Food Idea Group and Co-founder of SWFL Restaurant Week & Where To Eat 239
- Current Employer(s): Self
- Bio: Rafael’s journey to now started in the hospitality industry as a local bartender making his way through college. Eventually he worked his way up the corporate ladder to Restaurant & Bar trainer and in this tenure was fortunate to travel and eat from the best restaurants and most renowned chefs in the country. When he came back home to SWFL, he realized our area didn’t have the culinary footprint that other established cities showcased. Hungry to make an impact in the community, Naples Restaurant Week was born & now has 50+ Restaurants in Naples and has expanded to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. It’s also led to the creation of “Where To Eat 239” and their corporate company – the Food Idea Group, Restaurant Marketing & Culinary Events. It’s also given him the opportunity to work with amazing people, turn business into friendships and give back to local charities in the area.
- Community Involvement: Oct 2017 – “Real Men Wear Pink” Campaign for American Cancer Society. Dedicated to raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness throughout all of October
Sept 2017 – Mercy Chefs for Hurricane Irma Relief in SWFL
2016-17 Raised over $20,000 through Naples Restaurant Week for St. Matthew’s House, Collier Boys & Girls Club and Humane Society Naples
2016 – “Project Outreach” & “Serve Day” events for Life Christian Church
2011 – Volunteer for Harry Chapin Food Bank (Thanksgiving & Christmas)
2010 – Founded “Betas Wrap it Up”: Fraternity brothers and FGCU students wrap & deliver Christmas gifts from Miromar Outlets/Miromar Design Center to underprivileged pre-school children of Immokalee City.
2009 – Founded the 1st Multicultural Greek Organization on FGCU campus, Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc. Paved the way for numerous diversified organizations to follow & the creation of the Multi-Cultural Greek Council
- Favorite things to do outside of work: Experiencing new foods, traveling new places, attending live sporting events, golf, rooting for the Knicks, Giants & Yankees and spending time with his dogs, Bourbon & Kahlua.
- Favorite quote: “Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead”
- What does SWFL mean to you: SWFL is home! Born in NY and growing up in Jersey, I’ve had the great opportunity to live in different areas but none compare to what we have in SWFL. It’s not just the beautiful scenery and beaches, residents really care about our community and it showed true especially after Hurricane Irma. SWFL is something I bring with me everywhere I go and I’m excited to be a part of the future we’re building for the next 100 years.
- Best advice you’ve received: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make the call, send the email, build relationships and learn from other’s experiences. Don’t be discouraged to ask the questions because hopefully one day, you’ll be in the position to answer them.
- What drives you: What drives me most is the fear of stagnancy. I want to grow, learn and master it.. then go on to the next. I wake up every morning like there is an internal clock in my body and I don’t want to waste any of its time.
- Biggest influences: My parents. The expectations set by my parents in every aspect of my life has shaped the person I am today. They taught me never to settle and to always demand the absolute best of myself or give nothing at all. My mother has always been my biggest critic, my father makes zero excuses and they both don’t let anything come before family. My parents foundation has given me a platform to build my life upon and the confidence that I can achieve anything.
- Last book read: Made to Stick – by Chip & Dan Heath