Meet the Man Behind TOPO’s Distillery (Part 3 of the Series)

TOPO Distillery released “Age Your Own Whiskey” kits this week. They’re available in in ABC stores throughout Orange County. Part owner, Esteban, sat down with us to chat about food, drink, and fun. Please contact Taste Carolina if you’re interested in a tour and tasting at the distillery with Esteban as part of a food and drink tour of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. To find out more about TOPO, see our earlier posts here and here.

Starting with the basics: 

  • Occupation: Spirit Guide for TOPO Distillery. What is your hometown? San Diego, California. When did you move to North Carolina? I moved to Chapel Hill in 1997 from New York.

What do you love best about North Carolina? In Chapel Hill, I love the vibrant atmosphere of the college town: all the restaurants, bars and sports, in that order. And all the different kinds of people here. Different, interesting people.

What type of music do you listen to when you’re cooking in the kitchen? Classic Rock – Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie.

Top 5 favorite foods? (anything goes) (1) Pan Con Tomate – Bread with Tomato. A baguette with fresh tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper, and jamon serrano; (2) Steak; (3) Plank-grilled salmon; (4) Couscous with vegetables; (5) Artichokes.

What is your comfort food? A big salad with oil and vinegar and a glass of red wine.

Are there any foods you won’t eat/try? Not that I am aware of! There’re a few that don’t sound too good, but if they were put in front of me, I would try them just to try them. I would never turn down tasting any kind of food. Some foods that I’ve tried are sea slugs, duck feet, and calf brains, which I would try again. 

What is the most memorable meal you’ve eaten recently? I cook almost every night, and I usually cook pretty good stuff. In the last few weeks, I grilled salmon and made vegetable couscous and steamed broccoli with lemon juice and olive oil. Oh, and garlic bread. That was good. My favorite meal of all-time was in Cortona, Italy, sitting on an outdoor patio overlooking the countryside. The meal lasted five hours, and it’s hard to remember exactly what we ate. We had traditional pasta dishes with meat, steak and octopus paired with lots of wine and moscato. And I even ate dessert, which I rarely do.

The ingredient you currently can’t stop using is: Olive oil.

You have a day with absolutely no obligations. How do you spend it? It would start with a good workout, then reading by the pool (preferably the prequel to Ender’s Game). Dinner would be sushi and sake at Akai Hana, followed by drinks with friends.

What are some cooking challenges or techniques you would like to tackle? I don’t think I’ve ever made my own pasta. I’d also like to learn to make Indian Food.

Who is one person you’d love to cook with? Julia Child – it would have been a lot of fun to cook with her. Either that or the cast from Monty Python.



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