Shift Drinks: Ilma Lopez


Ilma Lopez is pastry chef at and one of the owners of Piccolo in Portland, Maine. She is also a Partner at the Blue Rooster Food Co. She is photographed here with a Guarapita. 

Disclosure: Ilma’s restaurant Piccolo is a client of Knack Factory, though her representation here has nothing to do with our scope of work with Piccolo. 

Why did you select that beverage? 

I am from Venezuela so I grew up with rum. That was the base for when you wanted to drink alcohol. It was always cheap beer or rum.

It's nothing fancy and it is not a complicated drink by any means. In South America, you pretty much just grab any fruit that you have around you and mix it with whatever your country produces and obviously Venezuela is one of the biggest producers of rum.

The other drink I was considering was the ponche crema, which is made out of eggs and condensed milk and you make it sweet. It is pretty much like an egg nog and it comes it a little glass jar and you have it for Christmas.

How did you end up a pastry chef? 

It is a deep question. I didn't grow up with ending up in hospitality as a focus by any means. I grew up cooking. I ended up going to medical school way before I started cooking professionally because that's what my family did. Everyone was a doctor, so I figured that is what I wanted to do. Half way through medical school, I realized that I really, really liked to cook and I wanted to pursue that professionally. I wanted to do it more than just doing it at home. Everything in my family is always focused on the kitchen. Everything was food related, pretty much.

Things appear to have been very well-received up to this point. 

Yes! Working at our own restaurant has been great. I think we are in the right place at the right time. The whole move to Maine has been fantastic. The competition here is healthy and we have never felt that the people in the community are against us by any means. Moving here from New York, it has been great being the new kids. It has been really great.

NOTE: This interview originally ran in the Spring of 2014.