Monday, November 9, 2009

Chef Convo

Karime Lopez is serving as consulting chef at Cantina 1511 in Charlotte. We asked her a few questions:

Tell us a little about your background: the foods you grew up with, how you got into cooking, your experience and training.

I grew up in a family that loves good food. I have been taught by my family that I should invest in a good lunch and good dinner because it is culture and sharing. My grandmothers and my mother are my favorite chefs. I became interested in cooking while living in Paris. The smell of bread, pain au chocolat, and good cheese inspired me. Everywhere I traveled in Paris, I experienced great food. After Paris, I decided to move to Spain, where I studied at Seville University. After college, I went to work for Chef Santi Santamaria for two years in a three-star Michelin restaurant. Chef Santi showed me the importance of high-quality fresh food. I then went to work for Chef Andoni at Mugaritz Restaurant, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Chef Andoni broadened my knowledge of plants, herbs, flowers, and about the simplicity of food. I went back to Mexico to be in charge of creativity and projects for Chef Enrique Olvera, in Pujol Restaurant, a four-diamond restaurant. After Pujol, I did a stage at Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Lastly, I returned back to Mexico to work as executive chef for Danzantes Restaurants. I am passionate about teaching; it is one of my favorite things about being a chef.

What do you love most to cook?

I have many favorite dishes to cook. Two in particular are Pescado Veracruz and Huevos Campesinos, both of which are being added to Cantina 1511's menu.

What do you bring to Cantina 1511 that is most valuable for the restaurant?

I bring real Mexican food, real flavors, good products and excellent quality. I love and am proud of my food and my culture.

What do you think is the main difference between Charlotte diners and those you've cooked for elsewhere?

The Charlotte community seems to be very inquisitive and open to trying my authentic creations.

Is there one dish you hope Charlotte diners will fall in love with?

Tamales, moles and fresh salsas.

What's the best meal you've ever had, as a diner?

My mother's food is the best in the world.