Kobe Bryant

‘He Was a Very Simple Man': Employees, Customers at Fullerton Mexican Restaurant Remember Kobe Bryant

Rodolfo García, manager at the restaurant, said the late Laker's legend always said, "Treat me like one more customer and not like a star."

Rodolfo García

Late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was a regular.

He became very familiar with the Hispanic culture through his wife Vanessa, who introduced him to authentic Mexican cuisine. 

Employees and customers at El Camino Real, a Mexican restaurant in Fullerton, lamented the sudden death of Bryant, who was killed in a a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Rodolfo García
The late Kobe Bryant pictured with Rodolfo García, manager of El Camino Real Mexican Restaurant in Fullerton.

For nearly two decades, El Camino Real was one of the couple's favorite places to enjoy a carne asada tostada.

The restaurant manager said this is the place where Bryant treated the employees as his friends and never denied a photo, greeting or autograph to anyone who asked. 

“He always greeted us and if someone asked for a photo he never said no,” said Martha Castañeda, the owner's daughter. “He was always very kind. We are going to miss it."

Martha Castañeda
The late Kobe Bryant pictured with his family, Martha Castañeda and her mother at El Camino Real in Fullerton. The Castañeda family owns the restaurant.

The clients of the restaurant remember seeing him on several occasions and, although they knew who the NBA legend was, they only greeted him and let him eat without disturbing him.

“We would see him here frequently,” said Kelly Alesi, a frequent customer. “He would sit at the table and everyone knew who he was, but we didn’t bother him. We’d leave him alone and maybe that’s why he liked to come here. ”

Just as Kobe Bryant earned the respect and admiration of thousands of fans, those who worked with him closely point out that he always kept his feet grounded and demonstrated it with examples of humility.

Martha Castañeda
The late Kobe Bryant pictured with Martha Castañeda's father, owner of El Camino Real in Fullerton.

“[It was] very simple. He always told us, 'Treat me like one more customer and not like a star. I want to be one more customer,'" manager Rodolfo García recalled.

NBCLA's Layla Abbas contributed to this report.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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