Chef Javier U. Lopez was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but his culinary career first began to blossom after moving to Houston, Texas as a teenager. “I worked [at Bennigan’s] all throughout high school, starting as a prep cook and then making my way up to lead line cook,” he recalls. “This is where I learned organization, how to clean as you go, and the almighty sense of urgency that is only found in the service industry.”
Before long, Lopez found himself working at the upscale restaurant Brennan’s, where he was inspired to pursue formal culinary training at The Art Institute of Houston. His decision to satisfy his culinary ambition was matched only by his extraordinary work ethic – a requirement to endure his grueling schedule while attending culinary training.
“Going to school and working 70+ hours in the kitchen was a testament to just how passionate I was about food”, he says. “If I could offer any advice [to aspiring chefs], it would be to stay the course because hard work pays off. Educate yourself in any and all aspects culinary, and most importantly, learn the business behind being a chef”, says Lopez.
After graduation, Lopez once again relocated to pursue opportunities and career growth. He explains, ” I wanted to expand my culinary horizons, so I packed my knives and moved east to New Orleans, Louisiana. While in NOLA, I worked at Commander’s Palace, where I [had] the opportunity to work with individuals from all over the world. Everywhere I turned, there were new experiences to be had or more knowledge to be attained.”
Four years later, Chef Lopez found himself back in Houston to help open the upscale seafood restaurant, Pesce. “I rode that wave for eight years, all the while increasing my knowledge of all thing’s seafood”, he recalls. Shortly afterward, Lopez made his way back to Brennan’s, this time assuming the role of Executive Sous Chef. “Working for a tenured restaurant that revamps itself every other week was challenging but rewarding. This is where I refined my skills as a visionary chef and learned to stay on the cutting edge.”
After five years at Brennan’s, Chef Lopez used the tenacity and culinary expertise he had acquired throughout the years to embark on a new career with Sysco. “I have been [with Sysco] for almost five years. Similar to the restaurant industry, I have learned from an array of different positions, currently taking the spot of Specialist – Protein, and Culinary. This is the perfect lifestyle fit for someone like me. I not only get to offer my knowledge to my team and customers, but I also get to explore the limitless amount of cuisine and culture that the world has to offer.”
Chef Lopez has adventurously explored various food genres and cooking styles throughout his career, but his original introduction to cooking began with his grandmothers. “Watching my abuelas cook is where I learned the basics that would lay the foundation for my culinary career,” he recalls
That foundation and other culinary explorations have inspired Lopez to develop his own “freestyle” method of creating cuisines. “I like to put a creative twist on the traditional. I also enjoy the fusion of two or more genres of food. I like to call it ‘fusion not confusion,'” says Lopez. “My uniqueness comes from my background, culture, and my desire to never stop learning. These aspects of life are the framework that has made me the chef I am today.”
Chef Lopez is a valuable asset to our Sysco customers, both in and out of the kitchen. His foodservice industry expertise optimizes the performance and well-being of our customers while minimizing risk. “All aspects of [the] business are important to the bigger picture… [especially] customer service, sales, and marketing.”
Chef Lopez has much to be proud of, but most of all, he enjoys the opportunity to share his love of food with his love of people. “I’m proud to be part of inspiring the next generation of chefs, building teams, watching ideas come to fruition, and creating lifelong memories for those that I have worked with as well as my guests over the years. To be honest, there are so many things that I’m proud of – the list goes on and on, needless [to say] I love what I do”, he proclaims. “Inspiration is everywhere.”