Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Gustavo Lopez of CLAY in Harlem
Gustavo Lopez is the Executive Chef of Clay, a historic restaurant in Harlem that serves seasonal new American fare. Chef Lopez has a Culinary Arts Degree from ICE, and cooked in the kitchens of Terroir (Marco Canora), Lupa (Mario Batali & Lidia Bastianich) and DBGB (Daniel Boulud). At Clay, sourcing produce and certified humane proteins exclusively from local farms and producers, he creates comforting, approachable dishes that reveal deeper layers of flavor and technique.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Lopez for our "Chef Spotlight."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
When I was growing up I spent a lot of time cooking with my mother, but I never imagined that I would end up in the kitchen professionally. When I met my wife, Gabriela Davogustto, we started cooking together, in a more serious way. It was she who brought my passion so clearly into focus.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I had great mentors since the beginning of my career. Chef-instructor Erica Wide who helped develop my skills and techniques in my first years as a cook, and Chef Eli Collins who helped me build upon my experience and expand my creativity.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
From the beginning I've worked mostly in Italian restaurants, and that really set the tone for my cooking style, but I've also always been very open to studying and integrating flavors and techniques from many different cultures.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
I believe that having a team that expresses what we do is really important and I'm very proud of being able to motivate them to create the environment that we have.
What is your favorite meal?
I love Mexican food, and there is nothing better than a good taco! One of my favorite meals ever was a tlayuda in Oaxaca.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Clay is a seasonal, farm-to-table restaurant in Harlem. We source as locally as possible, and choose to work with farmers, producers and purveyors for whom social and ecological accountability is a priority. Our beverage program is as thoughtful as the kitchen, featuring small-production craft spirits and natural wines made with minimal intervention. I'm proud of our diverse team, both front and back of house, and how we create a supportive working environment for all.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gustavo Lopez