LOS ANGELES -- Geovanni Euceda would understand if you thought he was slightly out of his mind to give up his position as a chef at the swank Beverly Hills Hotel to run a restaurant inside a car dealership.
"Oh yeah, I was told I was crazy," Euceda recalls. "They'd say: "You're in a five-star, five-diamond hotel in Beverly Hills. You deal with movie stars. You're going to a car dealership?'"
Before making the move in 2002, Euceda had to ask himself the same soul-searching question. That was before he talked to Bert Boeckmann, the legendary owner of Galpin Motors in North Hills, Calif., which includes Galpin Ford, the nation's best-selling Ford dealer.
"If you're in a hotel like that, it's owned by the Sultan of Brunei," Euceda said. "You never get to meet the guy. When I got to meet Bert and see what he's about -- he's the best human being I ever met."
Boeckmann, the elder member of the father-son team that owns Galpin Motors in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, takes food very seriously: "I cook but I'm not a fast cook."
Horseless Carriage, the eatery on the site of Galpin Ford, is billed as "America's 1st in-dealership restaurant."
As a salesman starting at the dealership in the 1950s, Boeckmann recognized that buying a car takes time and the customer does not want to spend all that time in the presence of a salesperson.
And around the busy industrial area where Galpin Ford is located, the need to find a place to eat was especially acute.
"I was concerned," said Boeckmann in his office above the showroom floor.
"You take a typical deal -- a customer picks out a car, test drives the car, gets the used car appraised; it goes through finance. ...."
With all that going on, Boeckmann believed customers needed to take a break for a bite to eat and think things over. Or they might want to visit the competition before agreeing to buy. Better to have them do their thinking right there on the premises, just adjacent to the showroom at Galpin, Boeckmann reasoned.
"What it really did was leave them alone," said Boeckmann, who, with characteristic modesty, credits founding owner Frank Galpin with the idea of opening a restaurant.
"You eat food when you're hungry," Boeckmann said. "I don't care if you're at the dealership or at an outpost in the middle of nowhere."
And, Boeckmann believes, if you're going to eat, the food might as well be top notch.
That's why he hired El Salvador-born Euceda, who migrated to the U.S. with his family at age 5 and trained as a chef in San Francisco. Since he arrived in 2002, Euceda has transformed Horseless Carriage into a full-blown restaurant that serves food Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday all year except for Christmas.