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Salvador Chavez knows the restaurant business backwards and forwards, having spent 35 years working for the Pappas family, whose Houston food service dynasty is widely known.

Chavez, who came to the United States from the state of Michoacan in Mexico, said he started at age 15 as a dishwasher and worked his way up the ladder to become a cook, assistant manager, and then general manager of the Pappas Barbecue restaurant on Houston’s Southwest side.

“It’s a great company because they teach you how to work,” he said.  After leaving Pappas, Chavez spent more than 10 years planning for the day he could fulfill his dream of owning a restaurant. That dream finally came to fruition in June of 2013 when he opened Chavez Mexican Restaurant at 2557 Gessner in Spring Branch.

The family-run restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch and dinner, and has garnered excellent reviews on internet sites like Yelp, where diners have posted critiques raving about the chicken poblano, fajitas and desserts. Chavez said the restaurant’s fish dishes and carnitas fritas are also very popular.

He runs the restaurant with the aid of his wife, sister, nephew and his three daughters. On June 24, the family celebrated one year in business by hiring a mariachi band to help entertain the guests. More than 500 people showed up and it was the best night of business they’ve had so far, he added.

“It was a great night and everybody had a good time,” he said.

Finally having a business of his own is very rewarding, he added.

“I work hard––15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week,” Chavez said. “But I feel really good because it’s my business.”