Taste of the NFL Flavors of the Valley Chef: Ernesto Lopez

Chef Ernesto

Taste of the NFL’s Kick Hunger Challenge  pits fans from all 32 NFL markets against each other for a friendly competition to raise money for food banks nationwide. The season-long fundraiser (October through December) kicks off as part of September’s Hunger Action Month and culminates at the 24th Annual Taste of the NFL’s Party with a Purpose held on the eve of Super Bowl XLIX on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at WestWorld in Scottsdale. Taste of the NFL is enlisting local restaurants to participate in the challenge to raise funds and compete for a chance to be part of the Taste of the NFL action. All proceeds raised in the “Flavors of the Valley” competition will support St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix and Vista del Camino Food Bank in Scottsdale. The five restaurants that raise the most money during promotion will be invited to participate in the “Flavors of the Valley” area at the Taste of the NFL’s Party with a Purpose. Get to know one of the Flavors of the Valley chefs here:

Chef name: Ernesto Lopez

Restaurant and location: SOL Mexican Cocina

Social media: Instagram: @chefsto; @solcocina. Twitter: @SOLCocinaAZ. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SolCocina

What inspired you to take part in the Taste of the NFL’s Kick Hunger Challenge “Flavors of the Valley” competition?
Growing up in a single-parent home, I truly know what it feels like to be hungry. This cause really hits home for me, so when this opportunity presented itself I was fully on board. Not to mention that I am a huge NFL fan! It truly is an honor to be part of something that helps so many people that are in need.

Any hints as to what you’ll be dishing up at the Taste of the NFL’s Party with a Purpose if you win?
We have a few ideas in mind. We would love to show off our savory Firing Squad Chipotle Shrimp or our Grilled Cotija Corn. We may even consider serving one of our fresh ceviche dishes! Whatever we decide to go with, you can rest assured it will be representative of SOL Cocina’s array of flavors and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Say you’re hosting a Super Bowl party. What dish do you serve to guests?
I actually do host a Super Bowl Party every year, and I have to say our guests come with big expectations when it comes to the food. I typically love to do the traditional fare with my own twist. Grilled ribs with my own spicy BBQ sauce; my daughter loves the sliders with homemade coleslaw and of course many variations of wings. When I think of football these are just some dishes that come to mind, along with cold beer!

Have you always had a passion for the culinary arts? How did you get your start?
It all started with my mother. She has been in the culinary industry for 40 years and at the same restaurant. As a child it really showed me what hard work and sacrifice is. She is my hero, along with my two older brothers who also work in the industry. I guess initially, I just wanted gain their respect and eventually fell in love with it all.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love just about everything about it. The food first of all, with so many different ingredients and ideas, allows for an infinite number of possibilities. Growing up in kitchens my whole life, I really am at home in a booming kitchen, so even when times are tough, I love the mayhem! You have to pry me away from the cook line. I am fortunate enough to do what I love.

What are your goals for the coming year?
SOL Cocina is just a growing concept, along with our sister concept Solita Tacos & Margaritas in California. As an Arizona native, my goals are all about representing our brand in the Valley and taking every opportunity to learn and grow.

What food bank are you representing?
St Mary’s Food Bank Alliance

Favorite Super Bowl memory:
I’m a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan so seeing them win their first Super Bowl during my time was unforgettable.
Favorite sports-watching snack:
Love toasted almonds with dried cranberries.
Favorite cocktail to whip up for Super Bowl guests:
My wife actually makes amazing Micheladas.

AZFoothills.com is a media partner and proud to share with you the best chefs in the U.S. and will be featured in our new publication, IN Arizona, to launch January 2015. All the best Arizona has to offer!

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