Mario Lopez – Chef de Cuisine & your Host
Mario grew up in the San Jeronimo neighborhood of Mexico City, Mexico. Mario’s childhood in the city allowed him the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the local mercados. In his 20’s, Mario moved to the US. There he managed elite hotel properties such as the Westin Bonaventure and Biltmore. Mario discovered his talent for serving others, the general traveler or celebrity clientele.
After several years managing hotels, Mario joined the On Campus Housing department at UCLA… and it was there that he met his wife, Juliann. They discovered something in common; they had both contemplated becoming professional chefs. With Juliann’s encouragement and support, Mario followed his heart, changed courses, and enrolled in culinary school. Many said Mario joined the culinary field too late in life. What they didn’t estimate was his level of passion for food.
Mario graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu program, at the top of his class. Mario’s desire to learn and gain knowledge in any task he’s undertaking led him to read every culinary book and every video and/or demonstration he could get his hands on (today he maintains a culinary library at home). At graduation, a Professor recommended him for an externship at the highly celebrated Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco.
Restaurant Gary Danko has been on the list of top 10 restaurants in the US, maintains the 5 star Mobile Travel Guide honor for the last 6 years, and maintains Relais & Chateaux designation. An externship here wasn’t a dime a dozen, you had to be referred. Mario was offered a position to stay on permanently, but he headed back to Los Angeles to open new doors with this highly prized experience on his resume.
Mario continued his quest to gain as much exposure and experience as possible within the culinary and hospitality industry. Mario joined Chef Christoph Eme at his newly opened restaurant, Ortolan. Thereafter, he moved to open the new hotel restaurant at the Chamberlain Hotel, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood. Later, he joined the elite team at the Hotel Bel Air, under the lead of Chef Bruno Lopez, a French chef that he would later learn was good friends with his next mentor.
In 2006, Mario and Juliann moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he joined the Halekulani Hotel, a AAA 5 Diamond hotel with Leading Hotel of the World designation. Mario was a part of the hotel’s fine dining team at “La Mer”. Chef Yves Garnier was from France at the helm of the kitchen. Mario learned a great deal from the experience and further refined his craft, delighting guests and celebrities alike.
Back on the mainland US, Mario worked and studied under many distinguished chefs and in quality establishments over the next several years. First, was Annisette in Santa Monica, California was the newest restaurant of distinguished Chef Alain Giraud. Chef Giraud was named Chef of the Year by Bon Appétit Magazine and became the first chef in the western United States to receive the French Gold Medal of Tourism. Later, Mario worked at the prestigious Montage Resort, Laguna Beach and the Fairmont Newport Beach. Mario worked with Chef Craig Strong at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Studio. It’s here where he trained and appreciated Chef Strong’s California flavors with French and Spanish influences. At the Fairmont, Chef Blunston was versed throughout Ritz Carton and Fairmont properties within the US and Canada and gave Mario the exposure to new areas like banquet management.
After his time in hotels, Mario entered a new arena – the culinary department at SpaceX. SpaceX is a rocket builder formed by entrepreneur Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla). SpaceX brought chefs from throughout the country to provide high level culinary services to the growing company and associate base. Mario was a key component to developing creative culinary outlets for this fast-growing aeronautic powerhouse.
After years in the culinary industry, Mario felt it was time for his next adventure – opening his own establishment.
Juliann Lopez – Manager & your Hostess
Juliann grew up in Lakewood, California with her mother, father, and brother. Juliann’s childhood revolved around school and Pop Warner football during summer and fall since her brother played and father coached. Juliann and her brother always found ways to cook up something at home – their grandmothers were great cooks and their after-school play time included finding recipes that they could make from what was left in the fridge.
When Juliann was contemplating her future prior to college, she had two different industries in mind – an Interior Decorator or Chef. Juliann’s father was in construction and she enjoyed the weekends where they would visit new community sites to walk through the model homes. However, she felt that neither could “make money”. Of course, this was prior to Food Network and the phenomenon of the “Celebrity Chef”. Her decision was to get a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Real Estate.
Juliann graduated from the California State University, Los Angeles with a BS in Finance & Law. Right upon graduation, Juliann began her career in property management with a chance interview at the Donald Sterling Corporation. Mr. Sterling owned the NBA team, Los Angeles Clippers at the time. For the next four years, she moved from the accounting department to becoming the Director of Property Management. However, she had reached her ceiling there and knew there was more to learn.
Over the next several years, Juliann worked with an Estate Management firm in Los Angeles, overseeing projects for elite, celebrity clientele. One of Juliann’s favorite projects was when she worked on garden design at the Spelling Manor in Beverly Hills and had the opportunity to tour the massive estate.
Juliann spent the next 15 years in various facets of the Property Management industry – from managing a Residence Hall at UCLA (where she met and worked together with Mario) to operating multi-family communities in California, Hawaii, and Colorado for public, private, and institutional owners and clients. The industry has allowed her to travel across several states and meet great mentors and friends along the way. However, she longed for the opportunity to work again with Mario and create something of their own, on their terms.
Juliann and Mario are delighted to share their coming years working alongside each other, providing great food to their customers, and making positive contributions to their new community of friends.