Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Chef Maximo Lopez of Wall & Water

At a recent lunch at Wall & Water, located in the Andaz Wall Street hotel in New York City, I saw charming Chef Maximo Lopez in action. In the restaurant’s sleek and super neat open kitchen, he makes his seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine. Originally from Argentina, where he won countless awards and hosted several cooking shows, Chef Maximo is changing the face of New York’s downtown restaurant scene. He runs a farmer’s market, teaches monthly cooking classes and Wall & Water has become popular with both local residents and those working in the Financial District who return for his simple, seasonal dishes with robust flavors, including herb salad, salt cod, mac and cheese with mushrooms, young chicken with spring vegetables and skirt steak with charred tomatoes. Here, I speak with Chef Maximo.

Haute Living: What’s new at Wall & Water?
Maximo Lopez: With the onset of spring, I’ve been inspired by fresh flowers and aromatic herbs which I’ve incorporated in our new spring menu. My blossom salad with herbs, spring sprouts, aged balsamic and Parmesan cheese is a great new seasonal dish at the moment at Wall & Water.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes?
ML: I like simple, rustic dishes, so I think my favorite item on the menu right now would have to be the mussels from Prince Edward Island. Mixed with white wine, parsley, garlic, lemon, chili, olive oil and a crusty bread for dipping on the side. It’s uncomplicated and delicious.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
ML: I’m really enjoying the outdoor markets that are popping up throughout spring. They’re such a great addition to the New York culinary scene. Brooklyn Flea, Red Hook Mercado, New Amsterdam and our own Andaz Farmers Market at Wall Street are my favorites.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
ML: Anything prepared with 5 ingredients or less. I’m a firm believer that “less is more” and the idea that “simple does not always mean easy.”

HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?
ML: There is nothing more romantic and intimate then having an outdoor picnic. It requires a lot of preparation and thought, but you can be completely flexible with the location—and nothing is more enjoyable than a great meal outdoors.

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
ML: My favorite neighborhood is the Financial District where I live. I love it because at night it is not as chaotic as the rest of Manhattan but yet there are still lots of fun and interesting places to go to, mostly hidden gems that many do not even know about. It is also home to great parks like Battery Park and the Seaport.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
ML: I love taking the bicycle for a spin, antique shopping in a flea market or just relaxing while watching movies with some wine. It’s really up to the weather for me to decide.

HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
ML: I prefer to go to places that I haven’t been before. The more exotic the better. Nothing fancy, but seeing new things, trying new flavors and meeting new people is the best part of any vacation, regardless of the destination.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
ML: The most memorable meal I’ve ever had was the one where I met my wife. We met in a small Indian restaurant. The food was awful, the service was unpleasant and the place stunk – but for obvious reasons, it was the best meal I’ve ever had.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
ML: Olive oil, garlic, lemon, cheeses and charcuterie.

Wall & Water is located in the Andaz Wall Street Hotel; 75 Wall Street; 212-590-1234

Need help finding the perfect New York City restaurant? Or want tips on cooking elegant meals at home? Contact Haute Living dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels via her blog, The Busy Hedonist, or email her with any questions.