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Elliot Lopez: Home Run Chef

It’s opening day for Major League Baseball, a time when fans of the all-American sport come together to celebrate their favorite teams and players with burgers, brews and plenty of bombastic behavior. New York Yankees fans, in particular, are expecting an exciting season, as beloved shortstop Derek Jeter suits up for his last season and Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka dons the famed pinstripes for his first.

Elliot Lopez, Executive Chef at NYY Steak, is also preparing for an exciting season. The Bronx-born chef will open the ballpark steakhouse today, as well as continue overseeing the kitchen at its second location in midtown Manhattan.

Chef Lopez, who grew up cooking alongside his grandmother, got his culinary start when he landed a job as a dishwasher at the age of 13. He relocated to Boston to attend Newbury College, and following graduation, worked in some of Beantown’s finest dining establishments. He returned to New York when he was offered a job at Legal Seafoods in White Plains. In 2012, he was brought on as Executive Chef of NYY Steak at Yankee Stadium, and shortly thereafter led the kitchen staff in opening NYY Steak’s 51st Street outpost.

We wondered what Chef Lopez thought about cooking for some of baseball’s most esteemed players, not to mention the rowdy fans that root them on. Here’s what he had to say, plus a tasty Ahi Tuna Tartare recipe from NYY Steak.

You grew up in the Bronx but went to college in Boston and started your culinary career in Boston. The Yankees v. Red Sox rivalry is fierce. Who do you root for?

Although I called Boston home for years, I am a Bronx native and diehard Yankees fan for life.

As a born and bred New Yorker, do you have any favorite memories of the Bronx Bombers?

I got into lots of trouble for skipping school to go watch games! But my favorite was the All-Star Game at the old stadium. It was a thrill to see the Home Run Derby.

Visiting the restaurants at MLB ballparks is a big summer travel tradition. Have you visited any other MLB restaurants? If yes, any standouts?

It's on my bucket list to go on a tour of restaurants at other ballparks! It's good to see so much attention paid to the food offerings at stadiums these days. The restaurants at Citifield like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke are great and raise the bar for ballpark food.

Baseball fans can be a rowdy bunch and many of them watch Yankees games at your restaurant. What do fans typically eat and drink when cheering on the home team? Do you ever create game-specific or event-specific menus?

We get a lot of business people in our restaurants who go for classic steaks and glasses of wine. Our bar menu is also popular for game time and Pinstripe Power Hour, with options like Fried Oysters and Sliders served on pretzel buns.

At the stadium on game days, we have partnered with guest chefs who do one of their signature dishes. We are planning some pulled pork, braised brisket and Kobe beef dogs for the summer. We also do a lot of private events where we work with the client to create a custom menu.

Can you tell us what some of the Yankees’ players favorite NYY Steak menu items are?

Elite athletes tend to go for lean protein like Grilled Atlantic Salmon, and the 27 oz. Long Bone Rib Eye is one of our most popular cuts for all guests, players included.

Masahiro Tanaka chartered a private jet to fly to New York last week, so we can assume he has expensive tastes. If you could design a Japanese-inspired NYY Steak dish specifically for Tanaka, what would it be?

I would love to do an authentic Kobe beef with daikon radish and fresh yuzu to play with Japanese ingredients. They do decadent things with steak!

Derek Jeter’s announcement in February that he was retiring after this season shocked fans. Any thoughts on his departure?

It's the absolute end of an era. We have so many memories of milestones from World Series wins to 3,000 hits.

Mandarin Orange Ahi Tuna Tartare with Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup seeded, finely diced tomato
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Get the full recipe.

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