The restaurant industry provides opportunity to millions of Americans of all backgrounds than virtually any other industry.

Griselda Barajas

Griselda Barajas

President and chief executive/Griselda’s Catering
Sacramento, California

When Griselda Barajas first started her catering business in 1993 there were plenty of bleak days when she couldn’t meet payroll and had to use credit cards to cover expenses. When things looked especially dire she relied on a secret weapon — blackjack.

“I played blackjack in Lake Tahoe,” says Barajas. “I could make three or four thousand dollars in one night. It was like I had a guardian angel watching over me and I always believed that was because I was doing it for the right reason. I wasn’t doing it to buy a pair of shoes, I was doing it to take care of my employees.”

Barajas, who is 42, says she would never resort to blackjack today if money ever became an issue. “I am really awed by the fact that I did that and could be so gutsy, but I believe in karma and also a woman’s intuition. You have to trust it, and know when to walk away.”

Barajas says she listens to that ‘little voice in her head,’ and so far it hasn’t steered her in the wrong direction.

Born in Mexico City, Barajas immigrated to Houston when she was 12 years old along with her parents and two siblings.

“My dad was already here working for the legendary Ninfa Laurenzo, the godmother of Tex Mex, as a server in one of her restaurants,” says Barajas. Once here, her mother likewise worked at the restaurant, and Barajas and her siblings spent many hours at “our home away from home.”

Barajas’s time in the restaurant launched her life-long love affair with a business she still can’t get enough of. Her business philosophy is simple: “It’s never been about me, it’s whatever my customer wants.”

Today Barajas owns and operates Griselda’s World Café at the Capitol, which is located inside the State Capitol, and Griselda’s Catering Service located in the heart of Sacramento.

“When I first started in my 20s I didn’t know about accounting, leases, or government regulations. The whole process of starting a restaurant was very intimidating. Being naïve helped me out. I didn’t even know there was a glass ceiling,” she says. 

“I think it’s important to be honest with yourself because there is a lot to know, but you have to be humble enough to ask other people for input.”

As a divorced mother of four young children Barajas relies on her family to help when work keeps her away, sometimes till the wee hours.

“It is important to have a strong support system in this business,” she says. “In my case it is my mother and my siblings. They really support me. They don’t judge me. They don’t demand of me because they know I am working hard, and whatever I do, I do for my family.”

Aside from her myriad responsibilities at home and work, Barajas is very active in her community, forging strong relationships with elected officials, business and community leaders, and trade union representatives.

She has been a member of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and PAC since 1992; serves on the boards for the Metro Chamber of Commerce; Slavic Chamber of Commerce; California Restaurant Association; California Restaurant Association PAC; American Leadership Forum; and the Cristo Rey High School.

Barajas also has been honored with the Small Business Advocate of the Year from the California Chamber of Commerce, as well as Business Woman of the Year from the Sacramento and California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Despite all her good fortune Barajas never forgets why she has succeeded in the restaurant business. “The day I considered myself a success was the day I realized that I believed in myself, but even before that I always looked forward to coming to work,” she says. “I always tell people, and especially my kids, ‘whatever you do, do with love.”’