Seeing Is Believing: Stingray’s Drew Lopuski

by Dave on March 30, 2010

by Pam George

Drew Lopuski developed a good work ethic at a young age. At 13, he helped out in the kitchen of 1776, the restaurant his mother, Linda Butler, owned from 1994 to 2007 with her husband, Ken.

Famed area chef Phil Lambert took Lopuski under his wing. “He’s a phenomenal chef,” Lopuski says of Lambert. “He knows so many things, and he has French and Italian training.”

Lopuski followed in the steps of his mentor, only instead of serving up classic steakhouse dishes, today he is mining the streams of Latin and Asian cuisine as the head chef at Stingray Sushi Bar + Latino Asian Grill, located on Lake Avenue in Rehoboth Beach.

“I take the technique I’ve learned from other cooking styles and create a nice fusion,” he says. “I’m having fun with it.”

Lopuski has done an amazing job with Stingray’s menu, says owner Darius Mansoory, who also owns the Washington Street Ale House, Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar and Presto! in Wilmington.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” Mansoory says. “He is mature beyond his years. Of all the chefs I’ve encountered, I can’t say enough about him.”

Born in Phoenixville, Pa., Lopuski moved to the beach with his family at age 3. When he didn’t have after-school sports, his parents ushered him into the kitchen and “made” him do dishes, he jokes. “It kept me out of trouble.”

The steakhouse, the see-and-be-seen location, was famous for its 24-ounce Angus-choice steak, fish stew and lobster tail.

Under Lambert’s tutelage, he worked his way up the ranks. After graduating from high school, Lopuski headed to Florida to attend culinary school. But after his hands-on experience with Lambert, he found the classroom work challenging. “”I had a hard time sitting down and putting my head in books,” he says. “I tried several times, but I didn’t fit in. I was more into being in the kitchen.”

He worked at a Crowne Plaza Hotel in Florida before following Lambert to Union City Grille in Wilmington’s Little Italy section. Like Lambert, he eventually returned to the coast. Lopuski worked for SoDel Concepts, which owns six area restaurants, before landing the job at Stingray last year.

“Drew took the reins,” Mansoory says. “There are chefs who want to cook and create but they don’t want to be kitchen managers—that’s not a priority. Not only is Drew talented but he works hard” to manage the kitchen.

Lopuski has earned raves for his pad Thai, made with “wok-smacked” duck breast, seared scallops, baby spinach and julienne vegetables. He’s also receiving diners’ compliments for his broiled Chilean sea bass, served with a roasted shiitake mushroom risotto, sesame-roasted asparagus and tobiko crème fraiche. (Tobiko is the Japanese word for flying fish roe.)
Both dishes have a distinctly Asian flare, but Lopuski is currently relishing his work with chipotle peppers, which pay homage to the Latin side of the culinary concept.

For the most part, Lopuski’s inspiration comes from his own experiences. “I never get on the Internet to look at recipes or read cooking magazines,” he says. “I have about 10 cookbooks at home. I just learn from what I see.”

When Lopuski is not at work, he’s surfing or, in the winter, snowboarding up at Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania. Although he is good friends with Hari Cameron, the chef at Nage, the two high school friends rarely talk shop when they get together.

For this chef, actions clearly speak louder than words.

This article first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, March 25, 2010.

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