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Guillermo Zapata’s rules: 5 work and life tips from the man behind SUR

Sailun Tires

Becoming a dishwasher in a fancy restaurant is kind of like starting out in the mailroom at a major Hollywood agency: there鈥檚 nowhere to go but up — or out. In a way, Guillermo Zapata has done both.

The co-owner of SUR (which stands for 鈥淪exy, Unique Restaurant鈥) was already attracting diners like Madonna and Leonardo Dicaprio long before he and his colleagues were approached about becoming the venue for Bravo鈥檚 Vanderpump Rules in 2012. Since then, however, he has stepped away from the reality TV series to spend more time in front of other cameras. This includes ad campaigns for Mercedes Benz and Chase Bank, as well as acting roles such as Cat鈥檚 Revenge and the TV series Asesino, which will debut next year.

Along the way, the man occasionally described as 鈥The Spanish George Clooney,鈥 has learned a few things about fame, fortune and chasing a career in the arts, which he shared with SWAGGER during a phone conversation from his perch in Beverly Hills.

Guillermo Zapata at the SUR front desk
Guillermo Zapata at the SUR front desk (Photos: John Russo)


Rule No. 1: You Can Win The Race No Matter Where The Starting Line Begins

鈥淎s an accident, the first option I had in the U.S. was a position as a dishwasher. It was not in my plan,鈥 he says. 鈥淏ut you take that and you put all your energy into that. You focus and try to do the best at what you do. I was the best dishwasher, but I knew that would be temporary as long as I kept growing myself. If I learned how to speak English, I would leave the kitchen, become a busboy. You keep moving yourself and in a positive way, and the other things come together.鈥

The proof? Zapata had his own restaurant about six years after that initial dishwasher gig.


Rule No. 2: Stay Down To Earth, Even Among The Stars

Tom Cruise? He鈥檚 dined at SUR. Paula Adbul? She鈥檚 dined at SUR. Over the years, Zapata has seen them all, including many encounters when he was personally taking their order, not just posing for a party picture alongside them.

鈥淣othing came for free for them either. They all earned what they have. They worked hard for it,鈥 he says. 鈥淎 lot of waiters, they all have the fantasy of, 鈥極h, maybe Leonardo Dicaprio will put me in his movies.鈥 I鈥檝e found it鈥檚 better when you鈥檙e around celebrities to just absorb the energy next to you and use it to grow. You always need people around you to grow, but they have to have the right attitude.鈥


Guillermo Zapata / Photos: John Russo


Rule No. 3: Know Where You Should Shine, And Where You Should Gracefully Fade Into The Background

For all its success — and for all his ambitions as a performer — you don鈥檛 see a lot of Zapata onscreen on聽Vanderpump Rules.

鈥淲hen you have a background as an actor, it is powerful and beautiful to create characters. On a reality show is much easier to say, you know what, I鈥檓 going to put myself in there,鈥 he explains. 鈥淢ostly it is you, you鈥檙e not someone else. I was never comfortable with that. When it鈥檚 a reality show, they want to see a little bit of the good part but also the dark side of your life.鈥

Rule No. 4: You鈥檙e Already Auditioning Your Next Big Break, Whether You Know It Or Not

Zapata is particularly excited about Asesino, a series about an assassin in which he鈥檒l play a detective. The shoot took Zapata back to his native Argentina — an unexpected way of coming full circle after initially leaving for bigger things in the United States.

鈥淚f you鈥檙e organized and you鈥檙e working hard enough, you keep having opportunities. Like with food, the reality TV series, all this stuff. Life is a puzzle,鈥 he says. 鈥淢aybe what you鈥檙e shooting will take a month or a year. It will happen, you need to prepare yourself and be ready because the moment will come.鈥

Rule No. 5: Instead Of Looking For A Starring Vehicle, Treat Your Life Like You鈥檙e Driving A Vehicle With Other People Inside

Zapata often turns to metaphors that involve travel and transportation when he talks about his work or life. This includes running a restaurant, which he likens to an airplane. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e the pilot, but you鈥檙e in the background and nobody sees you — what鈥檚 important is what鈥檚 happening to them, the experience you鈥檙e having and where you鈥檙e taking them,鈥 he says. As for downtime, he describes it as a smooth-sailing ship thanks to his wife Nathalie and his two children. 鈥淔or me, at my age, 49, made me feel like I鈥檓 back in my early 30s,鈥 he says. 鈥淢y family is my motor.鈥


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