Chef: Ryan Lopez
Current Chef’s Title: Private Chef/Consultant
Chef Ryan Lopez started his career as a bus boy in the metro Detroit area. Fast forward a few years later, and he is working as a private chef for professional athletes like Kevin Durant, Amir Khan, Gabe Holmes, Donald Penn and Andrzej Fonfara, to name a few. Chef Lopez even spun some amazing dishes for Big Sean, who is of course known for spinning rhythmic raps. If there is a culinary equivalent to catching lightning in a bottle, Chef Lopez has done it. We recently sat down to talk turkey (terrible pun intended) with Chef Lopez and his take away on all things food and what the future may hold.
TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Lopez: I started cooking when I was 15 years old. My father would go to the local market and grab produce on the weekends. So, during the week my brother and I would do a lot of cooking for ourselves while our dad was at work. Around that time I got my first job at a country club as a bus boy. I got to see and talk to the chefs and always admired them.
My culinary mentor would have to be the chefs from my culinary school/craft college. They taught me a lot about this profession.
TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Lopez: I love cooking New Mexican cuisine. I have family in New Mexico, and through my youth and even now, I’ve had the chance to travel there quite a bit. I love the spice and culture behind that food. Working for an athlete most of my professional culinary career, I work a lot on bringing your traditional healthy foods a twist. Chicken, brown rice and broccoli are great, but there’s so many great ways to eat healthy, and I try to bring that to the light.
TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Lopez: To be honest and not just give this question the right answer, the answer is I’m still searching for that answer myself. There were no chefs in my family or professional cooks. I learned from experiences in my life, tastes that I’ve had and places that I’ve gone. I hope to get more active in my journey to find what foods make me tick and find a voice.
TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Lopez: There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a restaurant and I’ve seen those things. I think the things that I try to instill in young cooks is to be prepared and to be organized. There are so many mental errors you can make in a kitchen because your brain is in 20 different places. I try to minimize those mental mistakes by being extremely organized and prepared.
TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Lopez: Always the best moments to me are family meals and just taking downtime to collaborate with your peers.
TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Lopez: I really focus on just getting better every day. I want to be better than I was yesterday.
TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past few years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Lopez: Technology has helped the average customer really understand food in a way that 10 years ago, they didn’t. Data and systems have helped restaurants and chefs to create menus and become more profitable. All these things are great for the evolution of food culture.
TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Lopez: Molecular gastronomy has a place in the culinary scene and is here to stay. At the end of the day, if a dish can be delicious and bring a memory or an emotion out of you, then it has done its job.
TrunkSpace: Chef life and tattoos seem to go together like sweet and savory. Do you have any food-inspired ink? And if so, what does it mean to you?
Chef Lopez: I don’t.
TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Lopez: I would love to bring a new American restaurant to Oklahoma or Michigan, focusing on local and seasonal foods. I would like it to be a casual but elegant dining experience. A wood burning oven in front for guests to see and an open kitchen. I can’t give it all away, but maybe one day it will come true.