With five restaurants and a greenhouse between them, these two chefs have helped make southern Maine a national dining destination.

Ilma Lopez grew up in Venezuela, cooking in the kitchen alongside her grandmother. After getting her start in Caracas, she was accepted to the pastry program at Stratford University in Virginia. Today, Lopez is the Pastry Chef and co-owner of Piccolo and Chaval in Portland. She is a veteran of some of the most demanding and rewarding kitchens in the industry, such as DB Bistro, Corton, Tailor, El Bulli, Café Boulud, and Le Bernardin. In 2014, Lopez earned a StarChefs Coastal New England Rising Star Pastry Chef Award. In 2018, she was chosen as a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef semi-finalist for the second year in a row. Recently, she has been featured in the children’s book Kalamata’s Kitchen and was recently described by Bon Appetit as “one of the most talented pastry chefs in town.”

Cara Stadler began her career at 16, working at Café Rouge in Berkeley, followed by Striped Bass in Philadelphia, before heading to Paris to hone her fine dining skills. While in France, after staging at Guy Savoy, Cara worked at Gordon Ramsay Au Trianon Palace, his two-Michelin star restaurant in Versailles. She headed to Asia in 2008, working briefly in Singapore and Beijing then moved to Shanghai and began her long-standing relationship with one of China’s most esteemed restaurateurs, David Laris. She returned to the U.S. in 2011 to open Tao Yuan in Brunswick with her mother Cecile Stadler. They’ve since opened two more restaurants, Bao Bao Dumpling House and Lio, both in Portland, as well as an aquaponic greenhouse, Canopy Farms, also in Brunswick.


Video Recorded October 30, 2018

Host: Peggy Grodinsky

Peggy Grodinsky is the editor of the Wednesday Food & Dining and Sunday Source sections at the Portland Press Herald, and she oversees the Sunday restaurant reviews. Previously, she was executive editor of Cook’s Country, a Boston-based national magazine published by America’s Test Kitchen. She spent four years in Texas as food editor/lead food writer at the Houston Chronicle. Grodinsky has taught food writing to graduate students at New York University and Harvard Extension School. She worked for seven years as editor at the James Beard Foundation in New York, spent a year as a journalism fellow at the University of Hawaii, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Oberlin College. Her story on Back Bay Grill, “The chef, the dishwasher and a bond that keeps Back Bay Grill in sync,” appeared in the 2017 Best of Food Writing anthology. Her writing has also appeared in Yankee magazine.


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