Even as we speak, South Florida's own Francisco Lopez Jr., a Palm Beach County culinary student who works at a Daniel Boulud restaurant, is wingin it to the left coast to represent in Napa as top "almost chef" of the South. Before his plane took off he took the time to answer a few of our questions.
New Times: What's your name and how old are you and where do you go to school?
Frankie: Francisco Lopez Jr., 25 years old, Florida Culinary Institute of West Palm Beach Florida
NT: How'd you get involved with the competition and what'd you have to do?
FL: I was chosen by the chefs at Florida Culinary due to winning various in-house and out-of-house competitions, also because of my drive and originality to produce outstanding food.
NT: How's it feel to represent for the South on a national level?
FL: It feels great, I love the South, the craziness of food and culture. I feel that I will represent the South to the fullest, and I think they've chosen a great representative.
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NT: Whats the prize and what will you do with it if you win?
FL: The prize is $25,000, a one year contract with one of the celebrity judges, and a one year contract with Nestle. And there's also the title of being the almost famous chef of the country.
NT: Would you ever be on a reality show?
FL: Yes, if the opportunity arises then of course, the publicity and TV time would be awesome.
NT: Whats your signature dish, your favorite style of cooking, and where do you like to eat in South Florida?
FL: My signature dish is a Chicharron pork duo, my favorite type of cooking is a fusion between Italian and French contemporary, I love to eat everywhere in South Florida, I really can't pick a certain restaurant. I just love the cuisine down here.
NT: What's it like working for Boulud? Do you interact with him at all, and what are you learning?
FL: .I've personally worked with him once at an off-site VIP event. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, I've learned more about what kind of chef I want to be, and I've been pushed on my way to establishing perfect techniques and flavors.