Chef Daniel Graban-Lopez, originally from Madrid, Spain, has over 20 years of culinary experience.
He trained at the Escuela Superior de Hosteleria Y Turismo in Madrid, the oldest culinary arts school in Spain. There, he worked with Michelin Guide star chefs from the Spanish and international culinary scene. He worked in several Mediterranean restaurants and even cooked for the Spanish Royal Family.
Before moving to Virginia he served as chef at Four-Diamond property, The Lodge; Hotel Hesperia in Madrid, a five-star hotel; and as Executive Sous Chef for the Marriott Renaissance Hotels. He is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) and the Five Star Alliance.
Today, Chef Daniel is a culinary arts chef instructor at the Culinard Richmond, VA campus. He filled us in on how he started his journey and what to expect from the next generation of cooks.
Being an only child, I spent a lot of time with my mother in the kitchen. She would cook while I did my homework at a small table in the corner. I couldn’t help but watch her while she was sautéing, chopping, blending and doing various other tasks to prepare meals. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be working in a kitchen because I was on track to study chemistry. But, as destiny prevailed, I ended up attending the oldest culinary institute in Madrid, Spain.
Is there an instructor from your own education that stands out in your memory?
I have so many incredible memories while attending culinary school, but one memory in particular stands out while making a French omelet. I did not have enough heat on the stove to finish cooking the eggs properly and my instructor at that time, Enrique Martinez, yelled in my ear in front of 40 of my peers. The kitchen immediately fell quiet as he told me to turn the heat up. European culinary culture is very similar to the military, and instructors place a great demand on students to prepare them for the industry.
What do you love most about being an educator with Culinard?
I love to share my knowledge and experience with future culinary experts. I want to prepare them as much as possible to give them a realistic preview of what it is like to work in a kitchen. I feel that this gives them the skills they need to be proactive, instead of reactive. That way they can really see themselves being successful in any high pressure environment.
What’s a typical day at the Richmond Culinard campus?
I enjoy getting to campus early to prepare for the first group of students for the day. I typically get the kitchen ready for the day’s assignment, and make coffee for the students. When the students arrive we go into the lecture hall where we discuss the materials and recipes they will be using that day and take a quick break before heading into the kitchen… where the show starts! Once the students are done preparing their dishes, they present them to me and await feedback. They then begin cleaning the kitchen. As soon the students are done for the day, I start preparing for the following days assignment.
Best piece of advice you give your students:
Be the professional that you would like to hire one day.
What is one of your proudest moments to date?
I was a cook in Spain, and had created a daily special dessert. The Spanish Royal family was one of the first to try the dish, and I received positive feedback from the family. Another moment was when I was promoted to Chef de Cuisine at a 4 diamond award restaurant in New York.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Learn from every mistake.
What was the last dish you cooked at home?
Fresh pan seared Scallops with Sweet Potato Purée and sautéed Spinach finished with a Portobello Mushroom Veloute Sauce.