Q: You were an actor in your hometown in Buenos Aires and at 22 years old you came to Los Angeles to further your career. How did you come about from wanting to be an actor to a successful restauranteur?
A: When I came to Los Angeles in 1992 at 22 years old, my first job opportunity was as a dishwasher at a restaurant called Café Luna on Melrose Avenue. I knew that would be something to start with and that it would depend on me if I wanted to move forward and achieve more; and that’s what I mostly did. I started out on the very bad side of the restaurant business but then I had the chance to open something of my own.
Q: When did you decide to open SUR and what is the meaning behind its name?
A: In 1998, I had the chance to open a small restaurant off of the famous corner of Robertson and Melrose in West Hollywood that we call SUR. At the time, we opened as an Argentinean steak house, and in Spanish, “sur” means south. So, at that time, that’s what the concept of the name stood for. But over the years, we were able to become a little more electric and the definition of SUR today now stands for Sexy, Unique Restaurant.
Q: It seems your career has come full circle, with you staring on the hit Bravo show “Vanderpump Rules” and having just completed a film with Danny Trejo. Did you ever think that you would once again be in the spotlight as an actor?
A: One of the reasons I came here was for acting. I am an actor and I always knew that sooner or later I would successful. But sometimes when you want something it’s not always that easy, especially in this town when you have so much competition and it is hard to always get the part. A lot of talented people come into this country mostly to do the same thing and sometimes we bend different rules. So, we create something. On the restaurant side, I was always looking how to break down a wall in order to achieve more jobs as an actor. So “Vanderpump Rules” was something that we created at SUR and it definitely provides some acting, and I knew that it would be a good place to start. And from there, I continued to learn and try to put projects together to go in the direction of acting that I was looking for. So, five years ago I started this project to create this film called La Sombra del Gato (in English, The Cat Shadow). I always had in mind that Danny Trejo would be the perfect star of the film. And like I said, it took me five years of my own work alone to put everything together and make it happen, and it finally did. So, I am excited to say that by the beginning of the year 2020 we will be able to see the film that I am very proud of.
Q: How do you manage being a restaurant owner, reality star, husband, and father all at the same time.
A: One of the key things that I have that helps with this is that I do not like to sleep too much. I think five or six hours of sleep is plenty and that allows me to start the day early. And, man it’s incredible. There are so many things you can do when you start the day early. There is this beautiful energy in the mornings after breakfast which I love. I also try to be organized. I divide my time between exercising, being a father and taking my kids to school, managing different projects I am working on throughout the day, and then at night time I’m at SUR. I will say that in order to achieve what I do now, it takes discipline, it takes energy, and it takes passion. The thing I want to emphasize to everyone is to wake up early to start the day and stay productive throughout the day.
Q: What do you believe is the reason you were able to become so successful in so many different endeavors?
A: I have discipline, I know exactly what I want. I project myself five years ahead of what I would like to achieve by then. Every single day I wake up thinking about how far I want to go and all I want to achieve and then I find the steps to take to get there. And even after all the things I have achieved so far, I don’t think it’s enough. I keep imagining how much more I would love to achieve and I will continue to do that and I will push to make those things happen in time.
Q: What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in business?
A: The most important lesson I have learned in business is that you always have to be creative and you always have to be on top of the game. As the owner of SUR, I’m always there. I have spent a lot of time in restaurants and I know that having the owner in there means a lot not only to the employees but also to the customers. It means a lot to everyone involved with the restaurant. With that being said, it is hard for me to project whether or not I will open any other restaurants. I have had the opportunity to open more restaurants but right now I don’t want to, I do not think it is the time for me and I respect that. I think as a businessman you need to know when you are ready and are a hundred percent sure you can do the next step, because you could lose everything if you don’t make the right move. I definitely advise people to keep that in mind and to secure what you have and do the best with what you have.
Q: What keeps you inspired every day to keep up your success?
A: Passion. I am very grateful and passionate for what I do. I am very grateful of the country that I live in and the city that I live in. It’s also creativity, you have to have that to keep going. That’s what inspires me to keep going. I will call it a passion for life. If you have a passion for life, you will want to do everything.
Q: What do you hope your children will learn from you?
A: I think what they can learn from me is my honesty and that nothing comes easy. You have to play hard, and you have to be really consistent if you want to achieve something in life. I try to show that to my kids and give them as much love as I can. I want them to learn from me, but I also want to learn from them. I want them to see me as an example but from there, make their own decisions. I want my kids to be their own person and as parents you have to help them reach their own dreams.
Q: You are living proof of the American dream. What is your advice to others who want to do the same?
A: Just do it, make it happen. You have to know it won’t happen overnight, it will take time, sometimes years, but you have to do something towards your goal every single day. You don’t want to wait, just do it and believe it. I always like to say to people that I came to this country with no money, no friends, no English, and I achieved my goals. So, if anyone gives me excuses for reasons why they can’t do this or that, it is hard for me to accept that negativity. If you want to achieve the American dream it is there. You just need to fight for it, be humble, be productive, and be patient. Put the ego aside and fight for what you want and believe it can happen. Because it can happen. Like I said it won’t happen overnight and you will have to fight, fight, fight, and when you think you made it, you didn’t. It is a lifetime commitment of going and going for what you want. For me, I am still working on achieving the American dream. Even if I can humbly say I achieved many things, I still have more to go.
Q: What is next for you?
A: I am able to go back to my first love which is acting. The restaurant will always be there and I will make sure of it and always make sure it is running the way that it is. But now, I have more time to concentrate on acting and producing films including my first film that is in post-production with the trailer coming in a few months. And after this film is released in 2020 I will continue to keep going, keep acting, and producing. That is probably where I will be putting all my focus and of course be happy as a father and be happy in life.
After moving from Buenos Aires to Los Angeles in 1992, Guillermo Zapata invested his future into both acting and the restaurant business. Soon after, Guillermo opened SUR off the corner of Melrose and Robertson. Today, Guillermo is a successful actor, producer, businessman, father, and husband.