Eating House's Christian Ochoa Will Play Villain on Burn Notice Tonight
Eating House owner Alex Cassanova, waiter Christian Ochoa, and owner/chef Giorgio Rapicavoli play with fire, poking fun at Ochoa's role in Burn Notice.
Sous chef Adriana "Lips" Egozcue
"I also do a lot of modeling. There's stuff in some magazines and stuff that I've done for clothing and whatnot," says Ochoa. "So now it's getting to the point in my career where I have a face that people are saying, 'Hey I recognize you.'"
What's more, Ochoa has appeared in some independent films and played a lot of small parts in the recently canceled Miami-based drama Magic City. He was even an extra in Burn Notice once before. But tonight he will appear on Burn Notice for the first time with a speaking role, right alongside lead actor Jeffrey Donovan.
Ochoa started serving in Miami as part of a plan to act. It began with a phone call to chef Giorgio Rapicavoli -- who was his big brother in a Florida International University fraternity -- when the restaurant had just opened as a pop-up.
"I moved back here to try to get into acting. It was always my dream. When I moved back down, he was just starting Eating House," Ochoa recalls. "I remembered he was a chef, and a service job would give me the freedom throughout the day to go to castings."
Fast forward a year and a half, and he's becoming a familiar face. At a recent brunch, for example, Ochoa said he had three tables back-to-back that said they felt like they knew him but weren't sure where from.
In his first appearance on Burn Notice, Ochoa was just in the background. "I have a funny picture of me in the back behind Jeffrey Donovan, the lead actor in Burn Notice. There's this bad guy, and I'm like his henchman."
After that episode, the Burn Notice executives said they liked Ochoa's personality and asked him to be a stand-in (subbing for another actor for pre-filming technical purposes, like lighting). "And then they called me out of nowhere to audition for two parts. I was excited about it because when I got on set, they were telling me they were trying to recruit talent out of L.A."
Ochoa has Burn Notice actor Jeffrey Donovan at gunpoint.
USA Network / Burn Notice via Facebook
In tonight's episode, called "Things Unseen," Ochoa says he's playing a bad guy. "In that picture, my gun is pointed at the main character Jeffrey Donovan. That picture is deceiving. That's not really what goes down. There's a greater power that sort of turns my gun somewhere else."
Managing Ochoa is a challenge for both Rapicavoli and co-owner Alex Cassanova. "There's been times where I have to call them a day before and say, 'I have this huge thing. Can you have someone cover me?'"
But Rapicavoli doesn't mind. "It's freaking dope to get to see Ochoa on TV. It's been a dream of his for as long as I can remember," he says of his Pi Kappa Phi brother.
Ochoa has been able to make the money that he needs to get by while still working in an environment where he can be with his friends. And it shows through on his familiar face.
"I was reading a Yelp review about Eating House where the person said, 'The food was great but it seemed like the staff was having a little more fun than I was.' It's hard to not show your face when you're happy where you work," he says. "Everyone can see we have a great time. We love being with each other."
(That same Yelp reviewer also say he's "oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes," but that's probably obvious by now.)
The success of Eating House has also helped Ochoa meet many guests who come in to eat. "The entire cast of Burn Notice has eaten at the restaurant, all four of the lead actors, and I served them before I was on the show," Ochoa says.
Ochoa also has another claim-to-fame that's been kept under wraps. "You know the restaurant Pollo Tropical?" he asks. "I'm the voiceover you hear in all of the commercials. People always laugh when they find out I'm the voice of Pollo Tropical. At work whenever the commercial plays, they start cracking up."
He may be a secret local voice-acting superstar, but Hollywood is Ochoa's goal. He hopes to move out to L.A. by January, so those hoping to be waited on by a rising actor while dining on Rapicavoli's pasta carbonara better make their reservations fast.
Rapicavoli says Ochoa is great at Eating House, and even better on screen. "Watch and see; he's gonna be the first Cuban Batman one day."
The Burn Notice episode airs on USA Network at 9 p.m. Those dining at Eating House tonight will be a part of the informal watch party, with TV sets tuned into the show and the restaurant offering drink specials. Ochoa won't be serving -- he took the day off -- but plans to be there at the restaurant anyway.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Miami dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.