With more than 20 years of culinary experience, Chef Phillip Lopez is now at the helm of one of New Orleans’ best known and most prestigious restaurants. As executive chef of Galatoire’s, as well as Galatoire’s “33” Bar & Steak, Lopez maintains high standards for the quality and flavor of the food he brings to the table. Originally from New Orleans, he also travelled extensively with his military family when younger, collecting experience and inspiration from destinations around the globe that would later influence his cooking. Chef Lopez has been recognized by several local and national publications as a chef worth his (kosher) salt.
Bon Vivant: How are you navigating the COVID-19 crisis (in business or personally)?
Chef Phillip Lopez: By trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on the current stress levels due to social distancing, quarantining and stay-at-home orders. It is unprecedented how our modern-day lives have been altered. Pivoting to adjust with the new demands of PPE as well as staying mentally sound is priority.
BV: What creative methods are you discovering in order to continue to serve clients?
Lopez: Ironically, being a leader in the hospitality industry has its advantages. We are already educated on elevated sanitation procedures … In these new times of COVID-19 awareness, it is more about educating our patrons and employees about their safety and providing more accessible tools and information to protect them while within the premises.
BV: Who or what is inspiring you right now and why?
Lopez: I pull inspiration from everywhere and everything. I truly believe in the arts and, more importantly, in the expression of freedom of creativity, but I also have much mirrored respect for the sciences — the race for exploration of the unknown, the belief in facts and knowledge gained through experimentation and research. I feel knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment can be gained through both avenues, which is inspirational.
BV: What is the most helpful piece of career or life advice you’ve ever received, where did it come from and why was it so impactful for you?Lopez: I will quote my mother by saying this: ‘Son, if you always aim for the moon, then one day you will hit a star!’ Meaning, no matter what you do in life, always do your best. Your best may not always feel great, but in the long game, it could lead to greatness.
BV: Guilty pleasure?
Lopez: Believe it or not, reading. I have so many books in my house that I could start a library. I have always believed that knowledge is power. In this day and age, everything is becoming more digitized and accessible, but less tangible. There is something gratifying about disengaging from all the distractions of modern times and entering another world through the pages of paper and ink.
BV: Can you offer suggestions for a quick and easy dish folks should try to make at home?
Lopez: Anything over an open flame or grill. The flavors of cooking over fire, whether it’s meat, seafood or vegetables, are amazing. Just a little sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, olive oil and fire. That’s all you need to turn any item into something spectacular.
BV: What’s your advice for readers who are lazy or untalented cooks?
Lopez: Good food that tastes amazing and is also good for you is not always complicated or time-consuming. Fresh ingredients that come from responsible farmers or food suppliers and are manipulated in minimal capacity always end up being the best-tasting.
BV: What do you think is the number one, most crucial, can’t-live-without, go-to ingredient to be a good chef? Why?
Lopez: In my opinion it would be ‘kosher salt.’ Salt, in general, is one of the building blocks of life. We could not exist without the presence of salt in our diets. It has been abused and misused overtime, but if used in the correct form for minimally enhancing flavor and preserving ingredients, it is a crucial tool for any chef.
BV: You did ‘family meals’ to go during quarantine. Can you talk a little about that and how successful it was?
Lopez: Family meals were a fun idea to implement. Obviously, as a business, you need to pivot to meet the demands of evolving markets, but it was also a way for us to provide normality to our community and patrons in times of capriciousness, allowing us to eliminate the stress of having to think ‘What’s for dinner?’