Chef James Oppat

Joe Vicari Restaurant Group
Warren, MI
(586) 268-3200, vicarirestaurants.com

Corporate Executive Chef James Oppat joined the Andiamo family in January 2007. Today, he formulates all of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group’s recipes, menus, costs and business templates for daily activities, as well as managing major offsite catering events such as the Detroit Grand Prix, Ford Fireworks and the Jazz Festival. Chef James has brought standardization to all Andiamo locations, without sacrificing the visions and beliefs of Chef Aldo and his “From Scratch” background that built the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group. He has been instrumental in the opening of Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse in The D Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and has been very involved in Joe Muer Seafood brand. A graduate of Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Chef James attributes many of his successes to Certified Master Chef Jeff Gabriel, with whom he spent the better part of ten years, teaching, running his restaurant and absorbing everything he could. “My brain just processes differently than most other people,” he says. “I do not accept anything short of perfection.”

Interview

When and how did you know you'd end up in the food business?

When I was very young, I worked for some great people that had passion for this business. I learned that this was a career that people pursued and went to school for, as opposed to ending up in by default. Working for two great restaurants through high school taught me about pride, passion, dedication and excellence. I was allured by the aura that went along with the chef – the respect, the perfection of his craft, the knowledge and ability to conduct such energy, and chaos while providing high quality food in great volume.

What is your favorite dish to cook?

Impossible to answer. I love to cook what’s fresh, what’s in season and know my audience. It changes daily, when I cook at home I never know what I’m going to prepare until something speaks to me at the market and it all falls and follows from that. It could be anything that sparks the whole meal.

What is your favorite dish to eat?

I cannot answer that question either as I truly love food and enjoy so many different items. But if I had to choose, foie gras with a great sauternes, caviar with champagne, lamb with Chateauneuf du Pape, artisanal cheeses with Cabs and Super Tuscans would be at the top of the list.

What was your most interesting dining experience?

Multiple, but George V at the Four Seasons in Paris and Daniel in NYC would top the list.

What do you love most about Detroit?

Being a Detroiter, I love the diversity of the city, the great work ethic that built this city with sweat and grit, and the long-lasting love affair with cars and the pride that goes into making them. We are the most loving, giving community in the nation as we take care of each other and posses that Detroit attitude of strength and stability.

Who inspires/ed you?

Not to sound cliché but I steal inspiration from everyone, as I have a huge personality and need to constantly fuel it. There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today and I am so grateful for everyone in my past and all of those that I have the pleasure to work with every day. My career successes are based on the great people that I have been able to surround myself with. I am so fortunate to work with passionate, dedicated, motivated, passionate individuals, and even more thankful for the incredible people in our home lives that love and support our passions. Our spouses and loved ones are the most important people in our lives and without their support, we couldn’t do what we do each and every day.