Student inspired by family restaurant


Brian Gallegos

Paola Ochoa works in her family-owned restaurant while also starting her own small business making custom chocolate covered strawberries.

Sasha Anand, Features Editor

Many of us are still at home working and with the pandemic having closed a lot of businesses, the ones who are fortunate enough to still have their businesses are counting their blessings. CSUSM student Paola Ochoa is one of those people. 

Born and raised in Escondido, Ochoa, a fifth year biology major, works at her family’s restaurant. It is named Carmelita’s Snack and it is located in Vista, only about ten minutes away from campus. Her family opened the restaurant last year. 

“We always were interested in having a business in the food industry because we love to eat and try different recipes. [Then] we saw the opportunity to acquire this business. Even though it was an established business, the owners stopped caring for it. We saw a chance to rebrand it and to offer our customers better service and better quality for an affordable price,” said Ochoa. 

“We are also working on offering delivery. [We are working on developing] our own app and [trying to make] better social media content to give our customers a better experience,” said Ochoa. 

At her family’s restaurant, Ochoa has many different tasks to complete. 

“I’m a ‘Jill of all trades.’ I help out in the front with the guests, in the kitchen making food orders, washing the dishes, sanitizing the dining area, answering the phone and sometimes making a post on social media. You name it, I do it,” Ochoa said. 

“I am currently working there a few days during the week and I really enjoy [it]. I live on my own so working there gives me the opportunity to spend more time with my family which I [love],” she said.

Paola Ochoa works in her family-owned restaurant while also starting her own small business making custom chocolate covered strawberries. (Brian Gallegos)

The food served there is a mix of Mexican cuisine and other types of foods.   

“When we acquired the business, it was mostly aimed at Mexican snacks like chamangos, tostilocos, esquites, raspados and aguas frescas. But we are trying to expand to include other types of foods like tortas, sandwiches and other varieties of shakes … Whatever you feel like that day, we can accommodate that want. We have some delicious shakes like Snickers, Oreo, gansito and a churro shake that will be coming out soon. If you want healthy, we have açaí and pitaya bowls and fresh fruit salads,” Ochoa said.  

There have been a few memorable moments that she remembers from working in the restaurant.

“One of our customers came in to buy some of our chamangos. She was making a trip to LA and she took some chamagos there for her relatives to have. [So I am] definitely grateful for that experience. We also have a customer that drives from Encinitas just to have one of our raspados. It’s very awesome to hear that customers enjoy our products,” Ochoa said.   

With the experience she gained from working at her family’s restaurant, Ochoa was inspired to open a small business on her own making custom chocolate covered strawberry arrangements. Working there taught her that she was capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to, among other things. 

“I have learnt that making connections and building relationships is very important. We are a family so of course there is that connection already, but building on those connections and making relationships is what is important in life. I have also learned to be a bit more optimistic. With the pandemic going on it has been slow, but there is always a brighter side to look at things. Instead of looking down and feeling bummed, instead I ask myself how I can make this situation better,” Ochoa said. 

If you want to visit  Carmelita’s Snack, go to 1275 S Santa Fe Ave St 110, Vista, CA 92083.They are currently open for takeout, delivery and outdoor dining. For more information, visit their website

Sasha Anand is a third year Literature and Writing major and Spanish minor. She aspires to pursue a writing  or teaching career in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing and spending time with her family and friends. This is her third year working with The Cougar Chronicle.