Rafael Jiminez went to work at Alfredo’s for one night to help out and ended up staying for more than 45 years.
But it’s now the end of an era for Rafael and his wife Judy at the popular Morecambe restaurant.
The couple have closed Alfredo’s after 39 years in charge.
The restaurant is up for sale or lease and Rafael and Judy are looking forward to a well deserved retirement after serving food and drink at the heart of Morecambe town for more than four decades.
Rafael, who is from Malaga in Spain, came to the UK in 1965.
After he moved to Morecambe, he worked as a waiter at the Grosvenor Hotel at Heysham, where he met local girl Judy.
Rafael also worked at the Elms Hotel and the Beach Club at Heysham Head where he met fellow Spaniard Alfredo Ordonez.
In the early 1970s Alfredo bought the Skipton Street restaurant which he re-named Alfredo’s.
“A few months after that, the Beach Club closed down and we went on holiday to Spain,” said Rafael.
“When we came back we were walking through the shopping centre in Morecambe and we saw Alfredo. He said ‘Are you working tonight? Do you want to work at my restaurant?’ I went for one night and stayed for more than 40 years.”
Rafael worked for Alfredo until he returned to Spain and on February 20 1978, Rafael and Judy took over.
“We decided to stay and since then we have just worked and worked,” said Judy.
With Rafael as chef and Judy greeting customers ‘front of house’, Alfredo’s became a Morecambe institution. The restaurant was known for its Spanish-themed bar and its quaint a la carte menu specialising in steak, chicken and fish dishes – which hardly changed through the years.
“People used to say we were stuck in the 80s but I said if it’s working, why change it,” said Rafael.
“And we were always very busy.”
Douglas Casari was a popular waiter at Alfredo’s for many years until he left due to ill-health a few years ago.
“Rafael was always in the kitchen and nobody saw him so people thought Douglas was the front man,” said Judy.
“He was very good at his job.”
Rafael, 73, said he had wanted to retire for a few years but finally decided to sell up because of leg and eye problems. The restaurant opened for the final time on April 29.
The couple, who have two children and five grandchildren, are looking forward to retirement. Rafael said he is happy in Morecambe and has no plans to move back to Spain.
“The first time I came here I fell in love with Morecambe,” he said.
“I never want to live anywhere else.”