2019 San Francisco Rising Star Chefs Joyce Conway & Mel Lopez of Pearl 6101

2019 San Francisco Rising Star Chefs Joyce Conway & Mel Lopez of Pearl 6101

When she was 4, Stockton, California-native Mel Lopez began cooking with her grandmother, grinding spices with a mortar pestle. By 5, she was cleaning tripe with a steak knife, and later helping to make flour tortillas, rice, and beans. 

Fifty miles east in Hayward, Joyce Conway was also cooking with her grandmother. To this day, she is inspired by childhood memories of the farmers market after church and get-togethers with family and friends. At fifteen she got her working papers signed and landed a job on the line at a Hawaiian barbecue spot. She knew she wanted to cook and the adrenaline of the kitchen was an added bonus. Conway enrolled in the culinary arts and hospitality studies program at City College of San Francisco, only to drop out four months later. She got a job at Bruce Hill’s supper club Bix where she met fellow grandma-loving cook Lopez, who was a student at the California Culinary Academy. The two bonded and debated which of them was the HBIC. 

Conway went on to become executive chef of Hill’s Zero Zero, while Lopez cut her teeth at Baker & Banker, Zero Zero, Aziza, and Pizzetta 211, all the while plotting to work together again. In 2015, they launched a monthly pop-up called B.L.U.D (Bitches Liven Up Dinner), staffed entirely by women. The concept proved popular and carried on for three years before ultimately leading to Richmond neighborhood joint Pearl 6101, at which Conway and Lopez are co-chefs and two of eight tightnit partners. Future plans for the duo include conquering San Francisco with their forthcoming concepts.