Cooking outside with Juan Lopez

Who is Juan Lopez?
Juan (32) was born in Ecuador and came to the Netherlands with his brother and mother. They were not well off in either country. The enormous cultural difference and life lessons taught Juan to think creatively and problem-solving. As a little boy he wanted to become a chef. Nevertheless , Juan chose the butcher's trade because of the more favorable working hours and to gain knowledge. He obtained his diplomas with full dedication and won the international Young Butchers Competition as a team. Main sponsor Verstegen offered Juan a job as a food specialist due to his enthusiasm and talent for flavor development. He quickly got promoted and traveled the world for Verstegen and was one of the finalists of the TV program Grillmasters . He is now the father of son Jake, 1 year old, and the Lopez family lives in Blaricum. With his company ' Lopez Specials' Juan organizes barbecue workshops and grill parties.

What connects you to Roostr?
The passion for outdoor cooking. Passion connects and entrepreneurs also seek each other out, in these uncertain times you have to spread your opportunities and be able to think out of the box. That's how I came into contact with Liam: the owner of Roostr. We met each other through the BBQ network and we quickly clicked.

“Outdoor cooking connects”

Why is cooking outdoors so much fun?
I enjoy cooking outdoors through my company 'Lopez Specials'. It takes me everywhere. Food brings people together and I love seeing that. Have you ever stopped to wonder why you look so fascinated at glowing coals or circulating flames? That is in your genes and it is part of our necessity for life! Cooking together, literally merging with each other, gives confidence. I have often seen the tough men from a group standing halfway through the workshop making dishes with fruit and vegetables. While they actually wanted to work on the large piece of meat. You give them more confidence in their passion for food. As a chef, that is really cool to see.

“It's great when you have some tough guys standing in front of you who say they don't like cooking.”

Do you draw inspiration from your South American roots?
To some extent certainly. But I get most of my inspiration from everywhere. This could be a conversation, image or smell. I just need a few directions and the ideas arise. This is not a natural gift. It is a conscious gift. I have studied this for years. Am I standing in the supermarket and the sun is shining? Then I get a craving for a sparkling fresh dish and I spontaneously come up with a combination that works. You will naturally become good at something you enjoy! I have about a hundred cookbooks. But I've never opened them. I like to be creative myself. I enjoy experimenting with new flavors and trends. I can count on flavors and love herbs and spices. They should support your dish.

You are a butcher by origin. But very creative with vegetables and fruit.
A good taste balance is very important with every dish. It doesn't just have to be tasty. It must meet good structures, flavors and appearance. I like to make works of art from barbecued ingredients. Barbecuing is a combination of cool and elegant. Barbecuing itself is cool. Preparing the dishes is a different world. It's elegant. The two support each other perfectly. That's why I always try to cook diversely with all ingredients that help each other in the final taste. It's a bit like the 80/20 rule. That rule comes from gastronomy. (80% vegetables 20% meat). Barbecuing is a slightly bigger challenge, because you normally eat a lot more meat. But I still try to respond to this and incorporate it into my workshops.

What does one of your works of art look like?
Nature is my source of inspiration. My dish should look like it grew like this. A dish must radiate what it has to offer and ultimately look tempting. I love making crispy chicken thighs myself. I fry them very crispy on the barbecue. There is no satay or marinade involved. Just really with just some salt and pepper. Then in the meantime I make thin pancakes from flour in Peking duck style. I fill it with the crispy chicken thigh, Hoisin sauce, mango, mint, cucumber and spring onion. When you eat them, each ingredient shines through perfectly. You see the chicken, the vegetables, the sauce. The meat disappears completely, but you still eat grilled chicken. You really don't know what you're tasting!

“I can count with flavors”

What do you really need in a good outdoor kitchen?
The nice thing is that you won't cook much better with a handy outdoor kitchen . But it will help you to work efficiently, professionally and cleanly. A lot has changed in BBQ land today. People spend a lot of time at home and work from home a lot. For me, the most important thing is that an outdoor kitchen can withstand all weather conditions, is heat resistant and easy to clean. I also like a lot of storage space. And it's nice that you can expand a Roostr kitchen into your own creation. With upgrades you slowly work towards your personal dream outdoor kitchen ! You start small and can grow slowly.

Do you have the ultimate barbecue tip for us?
Always take care of the awareness piece and use fresh ingredients. Smile and know what you eat, how much you eat and who you eat with. And taste! That is super important when cooking. Start with salt and pepper and add one ingredient at a time. Trial. See what you like. Taste again. Try making your own spice mix. Or choose one of my favorite mixes from Verstegen: they are always good!

See more of Juan Lopez via hisInstagram page