Graduate insight with Carla Kirsch Lopez

Originally from Mexico, Carla KIRSCH LOPEZ came to France more than 10 years ago, and is a graduate of the Bachelor’s in International Culinary Arts Management. After working for a few years at Lyon restaurant Monsieur P after her studies, she decided to open her own establishment showcasing gourmet Mexican cuisine: Alebrije.


Can you tell us about your background?

I am originally from Veracruz, Mexico, where I studied cookery after high school. At the end of my studies, I wanted to perfect my skills without necessarily launching an entrepreneurial project, but instead with a view to discovering the world of cuisine in France.

I arrived in Lyon in 2013 with the objective of learning French and obtaining my B2 diploma, so that I could then join the Bachelor’s in International Culinary Arts Management at Institut Lyfe.

Through the degree programme, I was able to complete several internships (La Réserve in Ramatuelle, Maison Troisgros and Saisons, the Michelin-starred training restaurant at Institut Lyfe), in different styles of restaurants, which gave me an understanding of what I wanted to do after my studies.

Tell us about your restaurant Alebrije and your responsibilities today.

With Vincent, my partner, we opened Alebrije at the beginning of 2021: it’s a restaurant specialising in Mexican gastronomy made using seasonal French products.

We are a team of five in total, and like many entrepreneurs, in addition to performing the role of chef (menu development, recipes, service management), we take care of all the administrative and managerial aspects involved in running a restaurant.

What skills do you think are the essential for your duties as a chef and entrepreneur?

I think that today, to manage a restaurant, it is indispensable to be open-minded and objective, in terms of both customer expectations and the expectations of the team. Our business has evolved a lot in recent years and we have to be able to adapt to new consumer trends, we must listen to our customers and equally to our teams, while remaining aligned with our concept and values.

I think one of the greatest skills to have is patience! The entrepreneurial path is smoother with patience, because the administrative procedures are often long and redundant, but necessary.

You closed your restaurant for a few months in order to renovate it, how did you manage this period?

We closed for 12 weeks to renovate our premises. We prepared for this closure by electing to stay open over the summer of 2023, taking just a few days off, but we were able to close for such a long period thanks to good cash flow management from the beginning of 2023. We have been very careful with our expenditure and investments, as well as monitoring the margin on our turnover as much as possible.

In what ways have the awards you have obtained, such as the Gault&Millau Young Talent Donation and the Bib Gourmand, helped you in the development of your restaurant?

The Gault&Millau Young Talent Donation is a huge accelerator for independent projects like ours. It allowed us to access a range of things that were not included in our initial budget such as furniture, napkins, kitchen equipment, drinks, etc.  That means you can start your project under better conditions.

As for the Bib Gourmand, which was totally unexpected for us, it allowed us to reach a wider clientele, with different expectations, and to increase our average spend per head. Bookings have increased sharply: the day the list was published, we had 300 reservation requests in the space of 4 hours! We are very proud to be the only Bib Gourmand in France (and among a dozen in Europe) offering Mexican cuisine.

What are you most proud of today?

I take the greatest pride in being able to show that Mexican cuisine is not just street food. I am very proud to offer cuisine each day which, according to our customers, is out of the ordinary and takes them on a journey.  I am also very proud to have an establishment that is fully booked every night and that has been evolving its offer since day one.

Do you have a particular story you remember from your studies at the institute?

It’s hard to pick just one memory from my studies at the institute, since I spent three great years there, but I often think back to the lecturers in the theoretical courses who underlined the fact that their subjects were perhaps not the most fun or attractive to us (accounting, management, kitchen design), but nevertheless essential. Now I realise that they were right. Today, as a manager, I divide my time between the dining room and the management of the restaurant.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We would of course like to consolidate Alebrije’s position as a reference point for Mexican gastronomy in Lyon and in France. We would also like to develop a concept around quality Mexican street food, with a varied offer that is in line with our values. This more family-friendly and accessible offer would be made using local produce (seasonal recipes, French corn and peppers, artisanal drinks). We have been working on it for a few months now and hope that this new project will see the light of day in 2024.




What would you like to say to students who want to get started in the restaurant world?

I would like to say to them that, as everyone will tell you, the world of catering and the food professions are above all professions of passion. This is true, but you mustn’t neglect the practical side and try different roles, offers and concepts before launching your own project. It is important to observe others, learn from any mistakes, and realise that a failure is not necessarily the end of the world, nor of your project!

Would you like to become an entrepreneur and open your own business? Our Bachelor’s degree in International Culinary Arts Management is for you!

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