This year, Larissa Popa broke out on the restaurant scene with her work in the world of butchering. She's used her skills with a hacksaw to educate other chefs on the art of breaking down whole hogs, introduced Detroiters to the cuisine of her Romanian roots through her rustic pop-up series with chef (and Metro Times restaurant critic) Aaron Egan, and has traveled the country to connect with other women who have broken into what is otherwise considered a male-dominated field.
Popa lets us in on a little secret: Meat wasn't always her No. 1 passion. Find out what first got her hooked in the food business, who she's watching in the dining scene, and how she celebrates her heritage through food.
Metro Times: What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did?
Larissa Popa: Everyone knows me as the Meatstress but I first wanted to go into pastries. Still my jam on the side.
MT: What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Popa: Coffee. Specifically, two shots of espresso.
MT: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
MT: What is the most positive thing in food or drink that you've noticed in Detroit over the past year?
Popa: Hands down for me is the food and beverage scene. There are so many great new restaurants and bars opening in Detroit. It is amazing that so many people are sharing their talents and visions with metro Detroit providing all of us new food experiences.
MT: Who is your Detroit food crush?
Popa: This is an easy one. I have a food crush on chef Kate Williams. She is so talented. Kate is a dear friend, mentor, and one badass chef.
MT: Who's the one person to watch right now in the Detroit dining scene?
Popa: Chef Jonathan Kung. He is changing the Detroit food scene one dinner at a time. He is an import to the area and resides in Eastern Market. Jonathan combines Chinese cuisine, modernist cooking, and art all into one dinner. Keep your eyes peeled to his pop-ups and his social media channels.
MT: Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Popa: Hot paprika. I am bold, spicy, proud of my heritage, subtly sweet, and add the needed flavor to any event or project I am working on.
MT: If you weren't working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
Popa: I would be getting my hands dirty on a farm. In my spare time I work on local farm helping to raise livestock, milk cows, and various farm chores. Raising animals is serious business, spending time with animals from birth to plate is very humbling.
MT: Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Popa: Never never ever ... sea urchin and liquid smoke.
MT: What is your after-work hangout?
Popa: Like I mentioned above. I head right to the farm. Hang with the animals.
MT: What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Popa: My guilty pleasures are hard cider and gummies.
MT: What would be your last meal on Earth?
Popa: How many courses do I get? My mom's stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, and with creamy polenta.