Chef Profile: Adriana Lopez Vermut

Bringing two cultures together in a sandwich

If Venezuelan-born Adriana López Vermut has her way, Americans across the country will soon regard her native arepas as one of the many ways to enjoy a sandwich.

López Vermut is making inroads in California, recently opening her third Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, a family-owned, casual concept featuring Venezuelan arepas, grilled corn pockets filled with ingredients ranging from shredded beef, black beans and plantains to grilled chicken, avocado, queso fresco and guasacaca sauce.

“Our first menu was presented in a very Venezuelan manner,” says López Vermut about the original Pica Pica in Napa, Calif., which she opened in 2008, and the second outpost she inaugurated in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2010.

“But Californians wanted to ‘build their own,’ so we decided to go with the flow,” says the San Francisco chef. “We even created our own dipping sauces, which everyone kept asking for, though these do not exist in Venezuela.”

The opening of the latest location in San Francisco’s Castro District reflects changes that come with introspection and reaching common ground.
Nachos Pica Pica (taro chips and pulled pork), more salads and dinner platters are now on the menu.

“It’s an exciting time,” López Vermut says. “We can’t wait to see where we go next.”

Most important lesson that’s stuck with you? Learning to be patient.

What kind of beer do you drink? Pilsners, hoppy ales, dark stouts, craft beers.

How many burn marks do you have?  Seven.

Thomas Keller or Tom Colicchio? Thomas Keller.

Worst thing anyone has ever called you? Unauthentic.

Longest shift you ever pulled? I haven’t stopped yet!

It's All About Me

Acquired her love of cooking from her dad, Leopoldo López Gil, a Caracas chef who is also her business partner.

Studied anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Worked as a research analyst for a venture capital firm, then answered the culinary entrepreneurial calling to open the first Pica Pica.

Three kids.