By: Sebastien Laforest
We want to explore delectable cuisines with inspiration from around the world. Our mission is to curate unexpected pairings and explore the boundaries the old myths of wine have unknowingly forged. And this new series, Global Wine Cuisine, is exactly that.
Hailing from Puerto Rico, Chef Rosana Rivera has made a name for herself in the sunshine state as an acclaimed private chef and restaurateur. Her resume boasts owning and operating popular Florida-based eateries Piqaunt, Xilo & Kofe, and currently Chef & the Baker. Rivera also has made television appearances on The Today Show. Moreover, she was a contestant on the twenty-second season of Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, winning the competition with her grandmother’s empanada recipe.
“Growing up in Puerto Rico, our culture revolves around food,” she shares. Rivera comes from three generations of cooks. Some of her fondest memories are with her great-grandmother. “My maternal great-grandmother married a Spaniard and lived in Spain. So, when she widowed, I would spend every day at her house after school and would always be cooking something Spanish.”
While Rivera’s great-grandmother was her inspiration, the culinary arts was not her first profession. A young Rivera had a corporate career in the luxury jewelry space. “When I moved from Puerto Rico to the United States, I had been working in the luxury jewelry market for about seven to eight years already.” After moving to the United States, she was presented with an opportunity to work at the international jewelry company, Roberto Coin, to grow the Latin American division.
Working at Roberto Coin, Rivera was quite successful. When she started at the company there were only four accounts, which she grew by the dozens. Rivera also managed them whilst travelling internationally to manage events, sales and marketing across Mexico, Central and South America. Although she loved her job, Rivera was feeling burnt out from all the role demanded of her. Rivera realized that perhaps that wasn’t where she was meant to be. “I am not necessarily suited for the corporate world. I have always been entrepreneurial from a very young age, so I knew I wanted to go on my own.” She left to pursue her own venture.
Not beholden to the rigorous scheduling that came working for such a large company, Rivera enrolled back in school. It was there she met her now longtime friend, Donna McGraw, who worked within the alcohol beverage industry. As she attended more and more events, Rivera became inspired. She recalls asking herself at one point, “Should I try getting into hospitality, which is my passion?” The industry parties really made her question following her passion for food and entertaining. Eventually, the pair joined forces and started a catering business as a side hustle. And that’s when Rivera decided to shift and enroll herself in culinary school in Tampa.
Opening and operating several successful restaurant concepts with Chef Ricardo Castro, Rivera’s business and life partner, reigns as the major career highlight. But what comes a close second? Competing and winning on the Food Network competition show, Beat Bobby Flay. Initially when the opportunity was presented, Rivera was quite skeptical. “I received this random email from a casting agent interested in a female chef.” She continues to describe the contents of the email, “I’m a casting agent for Beat Bobby Flay. We would like to talk to you about it.” At first, Rivera thought it was a scam. After two days had passed, she decided to research the sender online. To her surprise, the email was legitimate. This prompted her to reply and start the lengthy process of applying for the show. Rivera credits her story of starting her restaurant businesses with Chef Castro for landing their spot on the competition.
Rivera and Castro started working diligently to modify a recipe near and dear to Rivera’s heart: Her grandmother’s empanada recipe. She blended together her grandmother's dough process along with her mother's filling to create something irresistible. “I usually take two days to make empanadas. So how do I make empanadas that don’t taste like they’ve been made in only 45 minutes?” Due to the time limits the competing chefs must work with during the competition, it was a difficult task to complete. Suddenly after multiple rounds of trying to perfect the recipe, Rivera nailed it before filming the final round. Though the preparation was stressful, it was more than worth it. Rivera beat Bobby Flay and has since gained national recognition for her hard work and dedication.
“As I’ve grown in the industry, I feel it’s my duty to pave the way and open opportunities for other females to realize their dreams.” As a chef and businesswoman, Rivera has the dedication, drive and passion to succeed. That passion extends to making sure women feel empowered to discover and succeed at what they love. She continues, “One of the things that stands out is the story of how Archer Roose started. There is a wonderful female behind the brand and Elizabeth Banks is also involved. So, finding that it is very female driven aligns with my values.”
Archer Roose is happy to partner with Chef Rivera on this collaboration for this Global Wine Cuisine Series. She adds a whimsical, yet elegant flare to tacos by bringing together Archer Roose’s Bubbly Rosé and duck to create a delectable experience. Chef Rivera goes on to explain why. “I personally cook with a lot of wine to add a new layer of depth and flavor to any dish. Cooking with the wine you are pairing with serves to lift the flavors of the wine as you drink it. As wine reduces throughout the cooking process, it leaves behind the nuances of its flavor. With duck, you need bright flavors and I believe the Bubbly Rosé has a lot of notes that compliment it well.” In preparing her Duck Barbacoa Taco recipe, Rivera also opted to pickle onions with the leftover Bubbly Rosé for an unexpected—and delicious—addition to the creation.
“Non-traditional pairings should be a thing. We should never limit our palate—on the contrary, we should always surprise it. Global cuisines are so rich in tradition, spices, depth, and flavor that they deserve to be paired with delicious wines that will highlight those spices and flavor.” With years of international travel and experience in the hospitality business, it’s safe to assume Chef Rivera knows a thing or two about wine pairings.
Before ending our interview Rivera bestows some advice. And that is, “Push the boundaries in food and wine, dare to explore. It is the best way to enjoy great food.” Now those are words of encouragement we believe our adventurous character, Archer Roose, would support.