Do not adjust your screen settings. It’s just this week’s subject getting his Sunday grill action on. Luis Perez has seen businesses come and go in his restaurant’s neighborhood. Yet Lola Gaspar remains a local favorite for after-work socializing, date nights and Sunday brunch crowds.
Discuss your inspiration behind the concept and cuisine at Lola.
The inspiration behind Lola was simple. We were truly inspired by what we saw and ate from traveling. Whether sitting at Bar Boqueria in Barcelona, having pintxos in San Sebastian, having tacos at the witching hour in Tijuana or having aligot potatoes and steak au poivre after just arriving in Paris. Lola Gaspar is an embodiment of all those things. If you have been to Bar Manchester or Ryan’s Bar in BCN or Bar Alhambra in Madrid, you will be transported back there when you come to Lola.
Most undervalued ingredient.
Salt. I don’t know how many times I have had something and said, “Damn. If that had a bit more salt, it would be fantastic.”
Let’s discuss your Le Cordon Bleu training. What skills and/or concepts have proven the most valuable?
Emphasis on knife skills and the importance of mise en place.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
We work long hours and sleep very little. . . .they are true.
You previously did catering for private jets. What was that like?
It was grueling. You are up at three or four in the morning at times for flights that were departing at five or six a.m. We catered to people from all walks of life: athletes, celebrities and oil tycoons from the Middle East. The celebrities were extremely particular as to what they wanted. There was really no budget, just whatever the client wanted we would do. It could be grilled cheeses for the kids, to petite filet mignon and lobster— it was all over the place.
The meals that would maintain their integrity were pastas. We would par cook them, and the flight attendants would rewarm them in either microwaves or their special little ovens. Some would plate them on nice plates, so we would sometimes assist in presentation.
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
I don’t really cook at home. My daughter loves Cowgirl Cafe in Santa Ana, so I indulge on their buttermilk pancakes.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided you wanted to be in the hospitality industry?
I was told that I was good at cooking, and should think about it as a career. I would cook for friends and family a lot when I was young.
I love the two-seater along the window that’s its own nook. Is it a popular table?
Yes it is. We recently revamped our seating, so now it’s more open; much better feel.
Important qualities you look for in a sous chef.
Highly organized, over communicates, maturity, responsible.
You have a whole day to yourself; what do you do?
I would spend it with my family.
Where did you grow up, and where’s home these days?
I grew up in Bellflower, and I currently live in Orange.
Tell us about your guilty pleasure food.
I have a few: pizza, chili fries, pancakes, banana splits.
What should culinary school teach you that you didn’t learn until you worked in restaurants?
I am not sure what they tell kids now, but what they should have taught us back then is to be ready to make very little money, and what you do make, save it.
As far as technique goes, I think there should be more of an emphasis on butchering. It’s such a lost art. Respect to Michael and the crew at Electric City Butcher, who are doing such an inspiring and phenomenal job with that.
Hardest life lesson you learned.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Think of your mistakes as lessons and learn from them.
Your favorite childhood memory.
My grandmother’s fresh flour tortillas in the morning. The smell would wake you up.
Last thing you looked up online.
Puppies for my daughter.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
Grilled steak tacos over fresh flour tortillas in Mexicali, B.C. or any seafood dish at Bar Boqueria inside Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
What profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?