With five restaurants and a greenhouse between them, these two chefs have helped make southern Maine a national dining destination.
Ilma Lopez grew up in Venezuela, cooking in the kitchen alongside her grandmother. After getting her start in Caracas, she was accepted to the pastry program at Stratford University in Virginia. Today, Lopez is the Pastry Chef and co-owner of Piccolo and Chaval in Portland. She is a veteran of some of the most demanding and rewarding kitchens in the industry, such as DB Bistro, Corton, Tailor, El Bulli, Café Boulud, and Le Bernardin. In 2014, Lopez earned a StarChefs Coastal New England Rising Star Pastry Chef Award. In 2018, she was chosen as a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef semi-finalist for the second year in a row. Recently, she has been featured in the children’s book Kalamata’s Kitchen and was recently described by Bon Appetit as “one of the most talented pastry chefs in town.”
Cara Stadler began her career at 16, working at Café Rouge in Berkeley, followed by Striped Bass in Philadelphia, before heading to Paris to hone her fine dining skills. While in France, after staging at Guy Savoy, Cara worked at Gordon Ramsay Au Trianon Palace, his two-Michelin star restaurant in Versailles. She headed to Asia in 2008, working briefly in Singapore and Beijing then moved to Shanghai and began her long-standing relationship with one of China’s most esteemed restaurateurs, David Laris. She returned to the U.S. in 2011 to open Tao Yuan in Brunswick with her mother Cecile Stadler. They’ve since opened two more restaurants, Bao Bao Dumpling House and Lio, both in Portland, as well as an aquaponic greenhouse, Canopy Farms, also in Brunswick.
One Longfellow Square
181 State Street
Portland, ME 04101