Jose Alonso had mixed emotions Tuesday night.
The El Torito Grill head chef was happy to still have a job, but sad to see that a big part of his life was shutting down, as it was the Newport Beach location's last day of operation after 26 years at the location.
Alonso started working at the El Torito at Fashion Island 23 years ago, when he cleaned the restaurant. Two weeks after he was hired, he said he was promoted to prepare for the cooks. After three years of prep, he moved to a spot on the line, where he worked for another three years until he became the second chef. Five years later, he became head chef.
"I love this place," said Alonso, who will transfer to the El Torito in Brea. "I feel very bad. I started here. I moved to work at another place, but this is my heart. I started here. It's not fair, but it's a part of life and nothing I can do."