Meet the Producers: Mike and Nick Lampros
Co-Owners of Gunther’s Gourmet Groceriesuser rating
Good food is a magnet for the Lampros brothers. Raised in a Greek family filled with great cooks and a restaurant owner (where they got their kitchen chops growing up), Mike and Nick Lampros, co-owners of Gunther’s Gourmet Groceries, came together after pursuing separate careers as a chef and a lawyer to create a delectable line of vinaigrettes, marinades and salsas.
Creating salad dressings while working as an executive corporate chef inspired Mike to start the company. Realizing he had a special recipe, he turned to his brother Nick to help with the legal side of starting a food business. Today, they run the company together, developing new flavors and recipes and growing the business. Their love of food and experimental spirits inspire them to develop products that surpass what is typical, while avoiding artificial ingredients, preservatives, trans fats and high levels of sodium and cholesterol.
As for the company name, it was named after Chef Mike’s dog, a brindle boxer. In his honor, the company donates a portion of Gunther’s profits to the SPCA.
Here, Mike and Nick tell us about the best parts of working together, their finest meals and favorite kitchen staples.
1. What’s your favorite product in your line and how do you like to use it?
Mike: If you asked me three weeks ago, it would be something else, but since our newest product just came out, it’s definitely our Spicy Black Bean Dip with Lime. We added a sweet potato puree with honey to balance the peppers and it gives it a silkiness that you don’t get in a lot of other black bean salsas. I ate a whole jar for lunch today.
Nick: Fiery Peri-Peri Dark Cherry Salsa. You get a bit of sweet on the front and growing heat on back end but it’s never so hot you can’t taste anything. But it’s getting a run for the money with the new black bean salsa. I ate half a jar today.
2. What’s the best part about working with your brother?
Mike: it’s brought us closer together. We have different expertise and appreciate that in each other. And if he’s mean to me, I can still tell mom. I’m the baby so mom has to protect me.
Nick: It's been a lot of fun. It’s brought us closer together and we have a common goal. When you’re growing something from the ground up and it’s a family business, you know the other person is going to be there and you can trust them. Part of what makes it work so well is being in different cities, and we don’t seem to have any ego problems.
3. What made you decide to name the company after your dog?
Mike: I love my dog. Gunther’s Gourmet Groceries had a good alliteration, and we fundraise a lot for the SPCA so it’s a nice tie-in.
4. Who is your culinary idol and why?
Mike: I don’t have an idol. I’m more impressed with the men and women in the trenches who are preparing the food. If I had to name someone well known, I’d say Alton Brown because I like the science of food. But it’s really the people who bang out food every day using what’s local and what’s good.
Nick: Out of the famous guys, I’ve always liked Alton Brown because he tells you how ingredients react and behave so if you have that basic knowledge you can do whatever you want on your own.
In terms of learning how to cook and liking food, I go back to my dad’s parents from Greece. My grandfather came here and opened a 24-hour restaurant, where my dad and uncles worked. When we were growing up, we had to get up early and work there too. Also, my father’s mother was an amazing old Greek lady who barely spoke English, but every Sunday she would turn out huge meals completely unstressed. And the kitchen was spotless.
5. What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Mike. Diner food. I like ribs, sliders, waffles. Simple food brings people together.
Nick: A loaf of nice heavy fresh bread that’s been warmed up in the oven. Then you slather it with sweet butter. Before you know it, you’ve eaten half a loaf.
6. Best meal ever?
Mike: When I worked out in Napa Valley at Tra Vigne, it was the Bolito Misto. But before that, it was when I was 13 in Greece where I had my first gyro in the plaka. I’ve never had a better one.
Nick: For a simple meal that makes me drool, the oyster loaf at Casamento’s in New Orleans. They serve big loaves of white sandwich bread cut lengthwise, and they put a dozen oysters with remoulade, lettuce and tomato into it.
Another favorite is Friday lunch at Galatoire’s, a local New Orleans institution. I love the Galatoire Gouté, battered oysters wrapped in bacon with huge piles of lump crabmeat salad and giant shrimp and red remoulade. It’s top-notch food and a great atmosphere.
7. Aside from your products, what three items can you always find in your kitchen?
Mike: Seven different balsamic vinegars, five different olive oils and flavored salt.
Nick: Good olive oils and spices, good hot sauces like crystal hot sauce and if I can manage it, fresh bread.
8. If you weren’t a specialty food manufacturer, what career would you dream of doing instead?
Mike: For me, it goes back to the diner. I’d like to buy an original diner and fix it up.
Nick: It would be fun to open a nice diner where everything is made in-house and you serve great food that doesn’t have to be complicated. Or I’d like a job like Guy Fieri, where you get to wander around and see and taste what people are making.—Denise Shoukas