Diego Lopez Amat Executive Chef
Hailing from the heart of Catalonia, Barcelona native Diego Lopez Amat is thrilled to bring his culinary talents to Chicago. His grandparents were chefs themselves, running their own restaurant where a young Amat quickly learned the skills of the trade. Upon realizing that cooking was indeed his passion, he pursued studies at Barcelona’s prestigious Hoffman School and stayed on following graduation as an assistant professor. After leaving the school and working through some of Barcelona’s Michelin-starred restaurants like Gaig and Jean-Luc Figueres, he traveled Europe aboard a sailing vessel for two years as a cook.
Back on land, he trained under Ferran Adria at the acclaimed El Bulli where he gained a unique perspective that informed his next venture: opening his own restaurant. In 1997, Amat opened Barcelona’s first gastrobar La Estrella de Plata to wide acclaim, earning the spot the award for “Best Tapas Bar” by Spain’s culinary congress “Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia.” La Estrella de Plata was at the forefront of a new wave of tapas bars and paved the way for a generation of innovating chefs in Spain.
While he had received much renown for his restaurant, Chef Amat soon felt the draw to travel, so he closed La Estrella de Plata in 2005 for adventures in Morocco, Turkey, and beyond. Continuing his travels, he worked at a few restaurants in Spain’s Canary Islands as well as hotels in France and Spain before settling in the U.S. at the Hilton Bentley South Beach as their corporate executive head chef.
With eyes on the Windy City, Chef Amat left Miami to realize his dream of sharing his Catalan recipes at Mercat a la Planxa. He gathered a talented team of chefs and together have helped to bring an authentic touch to Mercat’s menu. With his cuisine and the Barcelona-inspired ambiance of the restaurant, he hopes that guests will feel transported to Spain each time they dine at Mercat.
John WilliamsGeneral Manager of Food and Beverage
With over twenty years in the industry, John Williams brings a wealth of experience to his role of general manager at Mercat a la Planxa. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he attended Wittenberg University to study psychology but decided to change his career path upon graduating. He moved to Boston where he took on several front of house positions in restaurants throughout the city, culminating in his role as managing partner at the contemporary French concept Circle Restaurant. After honing his skills in management and wine service, he returned home to Cleveland to work as regional director of operations for multi-concept group K&D Restaurants.
At a turning point in his career, he left K&D Restaurants to work with Cleveland’s renowned chef Dante Boccuzzi in the creation of his three fine dining concepts Ginko, DC Pasta, and D.B.A. Having studied under Master Sommelier Patrick Dubsky, he harnessed his vast wine knowledge to help develop a private label wine for each restaurant. After a few years at home, he returned to Boston where he worked with Fairmont Hotels as the director of outlets as well as the Aquitaine Group as general manager.
In 2015, he made the move to work with Sage Restaurant Group at their modern farm-to-table steakhouse Urban Farmer’s Philadelphia location. He excelled in his role as assistant general manager of food and beverage and grew in the restaurant group before rising to the position of general manager of food and beverage at Mercat a la Planxa. His move to Chicago is a welcome one for the Midwest native, and he has truly found a home at the South Loop Spanish restaurant. He aims to provide guests with the best possible experience, noting, “My goal is not to expect 100% of guests to be happy when dining with us…my goal is that 100% of guests leave happy.”