An Exclusive Conversation with Chef Karime Lopez
Karime Lopez, Chef at Gucci Osteria in Florence, chatted with Ocean Independence to give a personal account of her rise to stardom and her drive to embrace seasonal and inventive cuisine.
Celebrated for outstanding culinary contributions to the gourmet scene, Italy is renowned worldwide for characterful restaurants serving delicious cuisine. While the Italian coastline is dotted with many renowned gastro-hotspots, often frequented by visiting superyachts, one more inland standout is the Gucci Osteria in Florence. Accessed by road from the port of Livorno in western Tuscany, this contemporary restaurant producing mouth-watering creations is well worth the trip during a superyacht charter.
The first woman to cook at this flagship establishment, under the guidance of renowned three-star chef Massimo Bottura, is Mexican-born Karime López. Exquisitely talented, she captivates diners with an innate sense of texture and aromas paired with alluring aesthetics. Born and raised in Queretaro, north of Mexico City, from a young child through to the present day, Karime has been fascinated by the playful language of food as a means of creative expression. Experiencing a dynamic and diverse culinary journey in her career so far, Karime chatted with Ocean Independence to give a personal account of her rise to stardom and her drive to embrace seasonal and inventive cuisine.
OI: Please tell us about your earliest memories of flavours and aromas.
KL: I was very lucky to grow up in a family that loves sharing food around a large table. On my father’s side, my family own traditional restaurants in Mexico City. I grew up eating food from Yucatan and watching my family run the restaurants. All those particular flavours and memories are part of my childhood. On my mother’s side, I lived in my grandfather’s house after my father passed away. This part of my family used to host many big dinners with a group of lawyers. My grandma used to cook these dinners all the time, so I clearly remember being surrounded by all this love of delicious food. One of my strongest food memories is a bean soup with shredded turkey that my mother made for me as a child, and I still ask for that soup every time I return home.
OI: What was your first experience of the sea or ocean?
KL: I love the sea. My grandparents used to have a house in Acapulco in Mexico, and we visited very often. Before we arrived, we would stop at 7 Vientos, a place to eat cecina, and for lunch we would have fish a la talla. These memories rooted in Acapulco mean a lot to me because they were all the things I love together - good weather, nice food and my family. I still love to swim long distances in the ocean. It makes me feel so free and relaxed. I think I connect a lot with myself when I am in the ocean.
OI: Tell us about the food you have experienced when you have travelled and the food that excites you.
KL: Working in restaurants has allowed me to travel extensively and to try some truly amazing food. Each place I have been taught me a lot about the food culture, and the more I try, the more I realise there is not enough time in life to learn about and to taste everything around the world! One of the trips that opened my mind was my first time in Japan. I think it is the most amazing place to explore and learn about food. I can highlight many places, but Peru, which I once called home, has an incredible food culture. Also, travelling inside Mexico can surprise you. Depending on which part of the country you are in, the cuisine changes a lot. This is part of Mexico’s magic. I love to travel and discover more about gastronomic cultures. These experiences have definitely shaped me as a chef.
OI: When and how did you consider becoming a chef?
KL: I studied art in Paris and discovered all the incredible pastries, and it opened my eyes to a different world. I realised that I wanted to cook because it’s like art, but you can also taste it! This is the amazing thing about cooking; we share the same creative process but with a different ending. Then I decided to move to Spain to start this journey with the food.
OI: Tell us about your experiences over the past 18 months.
KL: As everyone knows, in the kitchen, we have hectic schedules and are always in a rush. So, for the past 18 months, I have had the opportunity to enjoy my house and spend more time with my husband. Also, I took the chance to recharge myself and started to think about the new things we wanted to introduce to Gucci Osteria. I also continued working on the projects we were developing, such as the menu for the new Gucci Osteria in Tokyo.
OI: Please tell us how your new menu came into being?
KL: When we closed the Florence restaurant, it was winter, and we reopened in spring, so we had to change nearly the entire menu as a lot of the ingredients were no longer in season. Also, we changed the way we make our bread, and this was a two-month project to test all the different variations and see what worked best. We don’t have a fixed menu and we follow the products we find depending on the season, and so each menu has many changes in the same season.
OI: Any important factors to mention or people to thank from your amazing career?
KL: A very important factor is passion, determination and discipline. For the people, I will thank my family as they have always supported me. My team is also very important, their dedication and commitment. And finally, my mentors, such as Enrique Olvera, Seiji Yamamoto, Virgilio Martinez and Massimo Bottura, all shared their wisdom with me and allowed me to work with them.