MEET Cristal Montero, General Manager of Chuck’s Famous Pizza in Arlington Heights
Cristal Montero is the General Manager of the newly opened Chuck’s Famous Pizza in downtown Arlington Heights. Hailing from Sparrow Hospitality, the ownership group that gave us Passero, where Cristal served as General Manager for four years, Chuck’s Famous Pizza opens today.
Cristal grew up with her parents and four sisters in Addison, Illinois. Her parents are immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico. The Montero family loves to entertain and create food together. It’s no wonder that three of the four sisters are working in hospitality. Cristal’s older sister is currently the General Manager for Besa Mi Taco in Itasca and her younger sister worked with her at Passero along with Cristal’s 17-year-old son. “Our family is always together and we are always cooking. We get together just to create food.”, says Cristal.
While studying nursing and physical therapy at Harper College, she was working at restaurants and then eventually found her way to the Hospitality Management program at Harper College where she graduated with an associate’s degree. Before working at Passero, Cristal worked at Labriola Café in Oak Brook and Standard Market in Naperville.
When asked what her most interesting experience has been in the restaurant industry she responds, “Covid has been one of the most interesting experiences to go through. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage a restaurant in different ways. At Passero, we opened a ghost kitchen. It was a fun concept that included lobster rolls and brought a little taste of the East Coast to Arlington Heights, the community loved it.” They ran two separate menus and tablets with the ghost restaurant just doing take-out. “It was a lot of fun.”
As General Manager of the restaurant, Cristal is in charge of both the front of the house and back of the house. She handles ordering, scheduling and making sure the team is following the recipes. When asked what it’s like as a woman managing what are often male dominated kitchens, she says she admits she has been very fortunate to work with the very creative chef and owner Matt Peota. Some restaurants experience battles between the front of the house and the back of the house but working with Chef Matt, they were able to create an atmosphere of mutual respect. She says it also helps that she speaks Spanish and is able to translate certain instructions to the line staff so they can do their job correctly. “We are all part of one team so we don’t really have separation. We all work together like a family and take pride in the food we put out. It’s our restaurant.”
“I love to see the joy it brings our guests to enjoy the experience and the food our entire team works for. I enjoy working with Chef Matt Peota, I'm always eager to see what will be our next new seasonal special or what his new creations are.”, says Cristal.
As Cristal transitions from Passero over to Chuck’s Famous Pizza, she says she loves training and managing people. All of her staff is young and for many, this is their first job. She states, “Think about your first job. How was that experience? It sticks with you.” And Cristal respects that responsibility. She enjoys strong relationships with her staff and prides herself that many of her staff stay with her longer than most. Cristal is excited for Chuck’s Famous Pizza to open and believes it will be a great addition to Arlington Heights; the New York-style pizza is something fun and different. “It’s a totally different kind of pizza with old 1990’s paraphernalia on the wall. It’s a very fun environment.”, says Cristal and she welcomes everyone to come and check it out.
Special thanks to Cristal for sharing a little bit about herself! We hope you join us as we share Partner Spotlights each month.