Volver welcomes Chef Juan Lopez to the table

Lopez Volver
Eddy Marenco

South Philly’s Chef Juan Lopez– owner of the brunch nook, On Point Bistro – is bringing his culinary expertise to Chef Jose Garces’ Chef in Residency program at Volvér through Feb. 12.

Metro spoke with Lopez about moving beyond omelets and pancakes into the sumptuous, elevated comfort-food taste sensations of his Volvér menu.

How did you start cooking in first place? 

I always enjoyed watching my grandmother cook over open fire when in Mexico, using product we grew on our own land and animals that we raised. But it wasn’t until I moved to the US that I started working in kitchens. It was a means of survival to start, until I was lucky enough to find mentors, like Jose Garces, that taught me skills and gave me confidence that allowed me to get to where I am.

Eddy Marenco

What’s your take on the diversity of concepts and flavors for what it is you do?

I like to cook food that people like to eat. That does not need to be boxed into one type of cuisine. There are items on our menu that could be considered Mexican, Italian, American, and even Mediterranean at times. On Point Bistro is “new American,” which I believe allows for a combination of cuisine types and a mix of ingredients, not boxed into one food type.

What does it mean to be a chef, now, in Philadelphia?

It’s an honor. I never imagined this is where I’d be when I started as a dishwasher. I value that owning my own restaurant allows me to control my schedule and balance work and home. Working in kitchens can be brutal, but being brunch only at On Point Bistro, it’s 8-4 p.m., home for dinner every night.

Eddy Marenco

How do you know Garces? How will you elevate what you are doing beyond your usual to accommodate Volver’s white linen experience?

I’ve known Garces forever. He’s been a friend and mentor for years… even came to my wedding, held at JG Domestic. He’s always looked out for me. The experience of mostly cooking brunch has reminded me how much I enjoy fine dining and has inspired me to possibly do pop-up dinners and at On Point. I’m also thinking about opportunities to work as a private chef for at-home parties after having spent years as a Sous Chef in Garces Catering, I’m well trained in cooking for large events, too.

Talk about the genesis of the meal you have going at Volver. What’s their vibe? The duck and the short rib, in particular, and you even made buratta special. 

Those are items that I’ve sold at On Point Bistro. Pre-COVID, we were open for lunch and dinner. The duck and short rib were items we did for special dinners like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. However, it got hard to staff during COVID and was disruptive to our family, so we made a shift to go to brunch only 7 days a week. The burrata is one of my favorite’s – simple yet fully satisfying. The Cheesesteak spring rolls are a fan favorite; a nod to a Philadelphia classic, just like our cheesesteak omelet. Generous portions of rib eye and a mix of provolone, cheddar, and chihuahua cheese is what makes the spring rolls thick and juicy.

Eddy Marenco

What should diners understand about you?

When I lived in Mexico, we used what we had, which wasn’t always much. I watched my grandmother get creative with combinations of ingredients. She didn’t waste a thing. That has really guided me in my kitchen. I like to get creative with ingredients and am pretty good making a special or new dish out of random product.