In the epicurean haven that Wilmington is quickly becoming, one name keeps popping up in the culinary sphere - Co-Executive Chef Lauren Krall-Ivey. Together with James Beard nominated Chef Sunny Gerhart, they have created elevated Italian cuisine gracing the tables of Olivero Restaurant.
Photographs by Anna Routh
Behind Krall-Ivey's undeniable culinary skillset lies a culinary trajectory bedded in passion and dedication. In the halls of the University of Colorado Boulder, she trod a path less traveled, shouldering the role of a substitute teacher. But, her soul needed something more, a deeper connection to the artistry of flavor. Simultaneously, she worked nights and weekends, weaving in and out of front-of-house restaurant positions.
But amidst her daily life, it was in the sacred realm of her kitchen that her true calling flourished. She became enamored with the act of cooking and orchestrating dinner parties. Each conversation with friends and family became an irresistible homage to all things gustatory and a celebration of the sacred bond between food and soul.
Chef Lauren bid farewell to her day job and embarked on a journey and enrolled in a small culinary school in Boulder. After graduating from the program, she was fortunate to work under the wing of several accomplished chefs, where she blossomed into the chef she is today. These distinguished mentors nurtured her culinary skills and unraveled the knowledge that being a chef is more than just cooking - it's about creating an experience.
What makes Olivero unique?
It's Sunny's family story that makes Olivero unique. We also use flavors and techniques from Spain and Italy and inspiration from the sailor in his family -- his grandfather, who traveled from Seville to New Orleans and married into an Italian family. We make all of the pasta by hand and pretty much everything else! We create a unique, approachable menu. We also focus on hospitality and having a well-trained, welcoming team. And I also love the design! Shout out to Jamie Meares of Furbish Studio for lending her creative talent to our space.
How would you describe the food you like to cook?
I really enjoy making the food we serve at Olivero. Pasta is one of my favorite things to make at work and home. Outside of work, it really depends on my mood. I love making Colorado green chili and tamales.
What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
I greatly enjoy seeing guests and staff get excited about food and hospitality. It's all about making people smile.
What might diners not know about you?
I always prefer to be in the woods. Camping, hiking & fishing. One of my favorite things to do is cook for friends gathered around the little WhisperLite backpacking stove surrounded by the great outdoors. Having a wood-burning grill in Olivero is the next best thing!
What is your current favorite dish on the Olivero menu?
Hmmmmm....probably the spaghetti with charred romesco, zucchini, burrata, and basil, but I also love the pork.
What's your favorite local product, and how do you use it?
Master Blend Pork from Kenansville. The pork is delicious, and Ron Simmons is the best person. He makes me smile every time I see him. We braise the pork shoulder steaks in milk with charred fennel and roasted red peppers. The pork is finished on the grill, and the milk braise is whipped into a sauce with red wine vinegar and oregano. We've nicknamed the dish "pizza pork" because the final flavor combination reminds us of pizza.
Best foodie city?
This may be cliche, but Paris is by far.
What's your all-time best comfort food?
Homemade pierogies and kielbasa from the Polish market in my hometown in Ohio.
Describe the best meal you've ever eaten.
The full tasting menu at Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. The whole experience felt euphoric. The famous truffle soup with puff pastry, the truffled Bresse chicken cooked in a pig's bladder, and that cheese cart...wow.
3 Songs on your current playlist?
If you have a critical piece of advice for cooks, what might that be?
Show up every day - physically, but also mentally. Work hard, listen, and pay attention to the big picture.