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Meet Charity Johnston of The Madera Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charity Johnston.

Charity, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started in hospitality at age 19 as a hostess at Katsuya Hollywood, which at that time was one of the hottest new restaurants in LA/Hollywood. I loved the energy of the restaurant and Learning about Japanese food and flavors which I fell in love with.

At age 21 I asked to be a bartender, not likely to go from hostess to bartender, but they looked the coolest, and that’s what o wanted to do. Although I knew nothing about spirits or cocktails. I somehow convinced them to allow this. I studied like crazy, did constant research, and asked a lot of questions. I’ve always loved cooking, and at 16 worked in a coffee shop, so somehow I was able to pick up on recipes and mixing different flavors, throughout the years I worked at different concepts and restaurants.

Learned about Italian wines and Amaris, worked in a pub-style bar, nightclubs, steakhouses, and more Japanese concepts as well. In 2016 I put out my first cocktail menu at Roku on sunset IDG’s newest concept. For that menu, I won 2016 Zagat’s 30 under 30 awards. After that, I began doing IG videos with a group of bartender friends that were all talented and so different and unique in style. I also was getting great press about the new menu.

I worked on a tv show with Gordon Ramsay as his mixologist in The F Word on Fox Network, as well as worked with John Taffer as his expert on Bar Rescue. I created and oversaw the bar program for 7 Japanese concepts with IDG, and then left early 2018 to work with the Madera Group as the companies Beverage Director. I oversee Toca Madera which is our restaurant concept and 10 Tocaya’s our fast casual concept. I’m currently working on opening our Toca Madera in Dubai as well as a third concept Casa Madera.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t know if the road to success is ever smooth, is it? I think no matter what it takes an extreme amount of patience and persistence. I have always felt somewhat underestimated, and I hate to say this but being a woman in this more male-driven industry wasn’t always easy.

I think that now there are so many more women in higher positions and their talents are being more and more recognized. I remember wanting to work for certain bars and I would kill my interview and wouldn’t get hired. I believe most often I wasn’t the look they wanted.

I think “good” female mixologist/bartenders look super cool and have tattoos… I never really fit the normal look. Whatever struggles there were along the way I was determined and still am!

Please tell us about The Madera Group.
I started with The Madera Group six months ago as Beverage Director. Before that I would say after ten years in Japanese I specialize in Japanese flavors as well as sake. Now I run Mexican concepts.

The Madera Group is truly special. They are a group that is expanding and growing at an incredible but stable speed. I think our group exudes young, forward-thinking, savvy, updated, attention to detail, modern design, as well as true care and objective to serve the best quality product as well as give people healthier or more thought out options for both food and beverage.

I have always described my style as walking into a kitchen or refrigerator grabbing fresh produce, herbs, spices, citrus whatever is available and by balancing flavors, you can create something delicious. I love to take risks. Mix and match opposing flavors and sewer how it comes out. There really are no rules.

I think what I do special and try to offer is taking a more mainstream concept, and still producing a product that you could get at a small incredible cocktail bar. I think high volume restaurant concepts play it safe when it comes to their bar programs. I want to give that hands-on experience.

I want to give delicious, beautiful, time-consuming cocktails at places that may not usually do so. I love educating and making cocktails that are interactive.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I think the only thing I’d do differently would be to work with more chefs. I want my cocktails to be culinary, and I have worked with great chefs. I think I’d love to learn and work beside more of them.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 8450 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: Tocamaderala also tocayaorganica

Image Credit:
Karl Steuck

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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