Look at the menu of Root in New Orleans. You won't see "appetizers," "entrees," and "desserts," but rather "beginnings," "middles," and "endings." That's because—as the restaurant's owner and executive chef Phillip Lopez says—Root is serious about food. But as restaurant's go, it's not overly serious about itself. And that's just the way Lopez likes it.
Unlike many chefs looking to expand their horizons, Lopez didn't have to travel the world after graduating high school. He'd already done it. An army brat, Lopez spent most of his childhood living in Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Holland, and Puerto Rico. So when he got into the industry, training with New Orleans' culinary patron saint John Besh, the young chef had an eclectic palate and an open mind—just the right combination to soak up training without losing the sense of wonder that keeps cuisine exciting.
Lopez further opened his mind with a stint in Washington, DC, working under legendary Michel Richard before returning to the Crescent City and rejoining Besh at Restaurant August. After impressing its owners with one of his tasting menus, Lopez was tapped to take on executive chef duties at Rambla. With a significant leadership role under his belt, Lopez eventually left Rambla to open Root, his first solo venture. At Root, Lopez maintains a balance of technique and wonder, creating honest, soulful food with molecular touches. In November 2011, Lopez was named a Louisiana Cookin' "Chef to Watch," and he received a rare four-bean review from the Times-Picayune, before being named a 2012 StarChefs.com New Orleans Rising Star. With irresistible quality and a charmingly sideways approach, Lopez is cementing a playful-with-purpose style in what is sure to be the beginning of a great career.