Meet Your Hosts
Bar & Restaurant Staff
Milagros Vallejo Ruiz
Born in Leon, Nicaragua, Milagros came to Costa Rica with her sister, Nubia, when she was 17 years old. They crossed the Costa Rica – Nicaragua border illegally at night, in dense forest, they were assaulted by three men who stole their money and their belongings. They were left with what they were wearing and 5000 colons.
They walked from the border to Las Juntas and then from Las Juntas to San Rafael. The town of San Rafael is 40 minutes from Monteverde. Here they found work picking coffee.
Her sister Nubia decided to go back to Nicaragua, but Milagros stayed in Monteverde. When she first came to Monteverde Lodge 4 years ago she worked as an assistant in the kitchen. When the position of Head Cook became available, she asked what it would take to get the position and made a pledge to learn everything she needed to learn to do the job. She didn't let us down, she has turned out dish after fabulous dish and she makes up for her extremely shy nature in her interaction in general by being creative, curious and bold with her food.
Her message to people considering a visit to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens: "The staff at Monteverde Lodge is friendly and looking forward to your visit, in addition to that, this is a place where you will relax and enjoy nature, Monteverde a place you should not miss."
Luis Javier Garcia Zelaya
Javier was born in Nicaragua, where he lived until he was 16 years old. Reaching that age, he made the trip south alone, to join his mother who had been living in Monteverde and working as a hotel cook for a decade.
He lives in civil union with a Costa Rican woman, the sister of fellow waiter Juan Fuentes, and together they have one daughter named Veronica, and another child on the way. When he is not at work he likes to relax at home with his family.
Over the years Nicaraguans have come to Costa Rica for a variety of reasons, most in search of employment opportunities or a more stable political climate; Javier came because at 16 he didn’t want to finish school. His Dad told him if he wouldn´t study he would have to work, and that he had better go look in Monteverde. That was exactly what he did.
His first job was as a construction worker, working on a project to build a large language school. After that finished he found work in the hotel Fonda Vela, starting as a kitchen helper and then moving his way up to chef. He picked up English along the way. We got ahold of him in 2011, and since then he has been on our wait staff at the lodge, where he now serves as head waiter.
He likes the lodge work environment because of the team spirit between him and his fellow staff. He says they have all known each other for years and it feels like being amongst family. He thinks they are able to deliver exceptional service to lodge guests because of the service culture at the hotel, which is built on creating a personalized approach for every client.
His message to people considering a visit to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens: "“If you come here you will have an unforgettable experience,” Javier says, “and we will make sure you receive entirely personal attention.".
Gerald Jiménez Varela
Bar & Restaurant
Gerald grew up an hour from Monteverde, in the small town of Santa Rosa de Guacimal. He describes it as very rural, known for some small agriculture, good steaks and a beautiful waterfall. He moved to the Monteverde area at age 13 with his family.
Gerald left school at around the same time, and hearing his work history since then includes a simultaneous review of the Monteverde restaurant scene. He was helping to tend a hotel bar by the time he turned sixteen, and since then has worked in “New Latin fusion” restaurants, local pizza institution Johnny’s, and even a local seafood restaurant where the owner loaded his coolers on the bus twice a week to bring up fresh fish from Puntarenas watermen.
Gerald picked up his English on the go, while at the same time learning tons about the hospitality and food and beverage industry. He said as he grew up he turned an eye towards the lodge, where his brother had worked, always advising Gerald to do the same. When he saw the opportunity to join our wait staff he immediately applied, and has been serving in El Jardín restaurant ever since. He says he has enjoyed taking his concept of service to the next level during his time at the lodge.
Mostly what Gerald enjoys is the garden laid out below him, and the birding that he can carry out while he works. He keeps bird books at home, is working on his photography, and becoming a respectable identifier of winged garden visitors in his own right. He says he took a guided walk, and was amazed at our guide’s knowledge of not just the birds themselves but also their calls and where to look for them. That was also when he got his first sighting of the famous Three wattled Bellbird. He is now always on the lookout for them from the restaurant windows, but his favorite visitor is a far more common one: the small but remarkable Golden Browed Chlorophonia.
Legendary service to Gerald means taking the time to be attentive to a guests needs, and to always find a way to share with them a little extra information, maybe something they didn´t even know they wanted to find out. He loves taking guests through the gardens when he gets the chance, and nothing makes him happier than getting a chance to point out something before dinner that they may have spent all day looking for out in the reserves.
Juan Fuentes Jimenez
Bar & Restaurant
Like many Monteverde natives, Juan was born in the biggest nearby hospital; two winding hours down the mountains in the port of Punta Arenas. Since then he mostly has lived and worked in the Monteverde community.
With a father working on the dairy farm which supplies milk to the Quaker owned Monteverde Cheese Factory, the Quakers have always played a fundamental role in his life. His excellent English results from receiving an education at the Quaker bilingual Los Amigos School, where he says the majority of his classes and interactions were in English. In 2003 he also spent three months in Virginia with a student exchange program. Juan has been working at the lodge for a year now, and came to us as a bit of a package deal with several longtime friends who together make up our wait staff team. He loves working in El Jardín because of the peace and quiet, along with the all-day view down into the garden and out to the cloud forest beyond.
Remarkably gregarious in the dining room, when Juan isn´t working he likes to draw and paint. He says he has experimented with water paints, acrylics and oil paints and has now found a new medium in digital painting. This work he does from his house in Los Llanos, a small village three kilometers away from the lodge. He lives there with his mother, and his next door neighbor is his brother in law Javier, who works as our head waiter and whose biography you can find by scrolling up on this page.
Oscar Perez Arguedas
Bar & Restaurant
Oscar was born and raised in the town of La Florida, 30 minutes from Monteverde. His parents have a cattle farm there.
After graduating from High School, Oscar worked in bars and restaurants in the Monteverde region. He has worked at Monteverde lodge since early 2010 and says that what he likes about working here is that he has time to get to know the guests.
"At Monteverde Lodge I am able to learn a little bit about our guests lives and share something about my own. It makes what I do a lot more interesting." I like that guest know me by name and are not shy about letting me know how they like their drinks or ask me for a special dish.
His message to people considering a visit to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens "Visit Monteverde to relax and experience Mother Nature"
Jeffrey Jimenez Alfaro
Bar & Restaurant
Jeffrey has worked at Monteverde Lodge & Gardens for a year. He has worked in the region in the Food & Beverage industry since 2000 and he had always dreamed of working at Monteverde Lodge. "It's such a classy place," he says.
"I like what I do because it gives me the opportunity to have conversations with all different kinds of people. Without being too forward, I always try to get guests to open up and interact with me and my co-workers."
He has fond memories of a birthday celebration barbecue in the Gardens where he and his guests were visited by a Coatimundi that the staff has named Poncho. He says that he will never forget that celebration because when Poncho came ambling up, he decided to introduce him to the guests as one of the Staff. Our guest promptly incorporated the Coati in the conversation. Poncho sat in the amphitheater for the entire celebration and truly seemed to enjoy the festivities.
His message to people considering a visit to Monteverde Lodge & Gardens: "Monteverde is a place to open up to nature, slow down, relax and enjoy the forest and the tranquility of the region."