Chef Geronimo Lopez, the owner of Botika in San Antonio, has an impressive background in culinary arts spanning the globe. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Chef Lopez has received countless awards and accolades throughout the industry and from his peers.
Most recently, Botika was named the People’s Choice for Best Restaurant at Pearl by the San Antonio Express-News. Now, Chef Lopez is gearing up for the nation’s hottest competition at Heritage Fire Austin on May 7th. In this blog, discover Lopez’s advice for aspiring fire chefs, his preparation for the feast this Sunday, and more.
What excites you about participating in Heritage Fire?
A. The interaction with other chefs and the sense of community that one feels in an event like this. Since Covid, we have been waiting to restart doing big events outdoors to share our love for food with people.
What does cooking with heritage breed protein mean to you?
A. It is very important to expose the public to heritage breeds, the American public is very used to a certain flavor profile. These animals are different, so it is interesting and new, the cook needs to apply knowledge because they need to be treated differently.
What farms do you typically source from in your city? And why?
A. Grandma’s Garden supplies us with fresh chives and greens for our pickle program and Rebel Provisions for small ranch meats.
When did you first cook with fire and why?
A. Back home in Venezuela, some of the best surfing beaches are secluded so you go out there and camp for a few days. Surfing WILL make you very hungry, so we used to go to the local Fishermans to get some catch of the day and have the most fantastic grilled fish over plantain leaves.
What is your favorite protein to cook? How do you like to prepare it?
A. I am a porkaholic. With pork, it depends on the cut, but in general, I love the combination of soy, sugar, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and chilies. Many preparations are a variation of these ingredients and it is always delicious.
You have a rich history of traveling. What is the next destination on your list and why?
A. South America is such an intense influence on me and has so much to explore that no matter how many times I go there there’s always someplace else that I want/need to get to… so I’ll continue to do that.
What’s the most popular dish at your restaurant, and what makes it so special?
A. Palm sugar braised short ribs over yakisoba noodles. I think that what makes this dish popular is the sweet and spicy nature of the sauce. The fatty meat and pickled chilies complement each other really well.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in the culinary industry?
A. Dive right in! Find yourself a good chef, one that makes his/her food from scratch, and work hard for one year. If you’re not completely in love with the craft by the end of that year, this might not be for you.
Did you always want to become a chef? Who or what inspired you?
A. Yes, always. I was burning stuff at age 12 and helping my grandma do cakes (she did them for a living) since I could reach the work table.
How do you prepare for an event like Heritage Fire?
A. We at BOTIKA do a lot of smoking and wood fire grilling. These techniques are typical of South America and are quintessential to the flavor profile of our cuisine, so we prepare by testing different techniques and recipes to come and bring something really different and fun to Heritage Fire.
What else should we know about you?
A. I am a surfer and a boxer, I firmly believe that my passion for food and hospitality is sharpened by my love for the ocean and the absolute madness of stepping in a ring, all these things complement each other and give me purpose, focus, and peace.
Meet Chef Geronimo Lopez and 20+ other talented chefs competing for the title of Heritage Hero at Heritage Fire Austin on May 7th. Grab your all-inclusive tickets today and enjoy dishes like Lopez’s “Mojo” smoked pork and sweet corn tamal.