An American Success Story in Chile
I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program this year and I spent the first half of 2011 living in Santiago, Chile. I embarked on this program with one of my best friends in the whole word, a guy by the name of Willie, and upon our arrival neither of us really knew what we would find in this sprawling, unfamiliar South American metropolis. Both of us spent our time in Santiago living with Chilean families, this experience allowed us to gain real cultural exposure and learn about the Chilean way of life. However, as much as we dedicated ourselves to cultural immersion you can tell from the photo below that there is no denying the fact that both of us are unshakably American.
That being said, we arrived in Chile in January and the NFL playoffs as well as the NBA regular season were both in full swing. Both of us are avid sports fans but needless to say, most Chileans aren’t huge on American football or basketball – and so it seemed we would have to resort to choppy online streaming websites to keep up with our beloved sporting events. However, we soon discovered the California Cantina, one of the most successful and unique restaurant/bars in all of Santiago, and all of our initial worries became an afterthought. The way in which we discovered the Cantina and the story behind it amazes me to this day.
The California Cantina is located in Providencia, a nice area in the heart of Santiago. The restaurant itself boasts 2 floors, 4 different “environments” that consist of various American themes and murals, 2 bars, outside seating, a roof terrace, and endless televisions and entertainment centers throughout. The menu contains a mixture of American classics, authentic Mexican food, and some Chilean-inspired cuisine. One of the founding ideas behind the Cantina is that it airs every notable American sporting event imaginable. Most importantly, the Cantina has a loyal customer base and is constantly attracting new guests based on the unique atmosphere, delicious food, and unmatched entertainment.
The California Cantina was founded by a couple of guys from, you guessed it: California. But how did they end up in Santiago? Similar to Willie and I they both participated in a study abroad program back in 2001. These two gentlemen experienced the same dilemma that Willie and I did upon their arrival to Santiago – they couldn’t find a good place to watch sports. In the true spirit of entrepreneurship they moved back to Santiago in 2007 and satisfied the city’s need for an American-style sports bar by starting the restaurant that would become the California Cantina.
It just so turns out that the host family that one of the owners of the California Cantina lived with was the same family Willie spent his time living with during our Santiago experience. As a result of Willie’s connection to the owner via his host family, we were able to meet him and get a tour of the restaurant, see the kitchen etc. I thought the story behind the Cantina was truly inspirational and it is one of the driving factors behind my interest in entrepreneurship and my passion for learning about international business.