Taste Bud Profile
The first time I talked to Chef Ilma, it was to gather her memories and stories for our very first book. I was so nervous—I hadn't done this before, and it felt like there was a lot riding on this conversation. As soon as we got started, however, it was like we were old friends. Chef Ilma has this amazing ability to put people at ease, and to share her stories and her food with such grace and warmth—which is of course why she made such a great companion for Kalamata! We're lucky to have Ilma, Damian, and Isabella as part of our family.
Ilma Lopez: I remember my grandmother always making fluffy poundcake with meringue. One of my first memories is helping her by sitting on the floor and holding the bowl while she’d cream butter and sugar by hand. She did everything from scratch, so when she’d make meringue, it was with a fork and a bowl and that’s it. She used to make this special hot chocolate too—it’s a Columbian chocolate, and she’d use a specific wooden whisk and froth it up for at least 20 minutes. It’s labor intensive but to me, it’s the only way to make it. She used to give it to us at tea time with fresh cheese and bread, and that’s still the way I have it today. If you open my pantry, you’ll find that specific chocolate, and all sorts of things from home my family sends for me. It just makes me feel better to have those foods with me, to keep me close to them.
My family is so attached to each other. I talk to my grandma every day. When I came to the states to go to cooking school, my grandma also enrolled herself in cooking school so she’d know what I was going through. She’s the best cook I know, so she definitely didn’t need to do it—she did it for me.