2018 Chef to Watch Sean Rivera

Sean Rivera
GastreauxNomica • New Orleans

Adversity can often challenge and inspire us to do things we would not otherwise do, and Sean “Chef Pooch” Rivera says that is what made him the chef he is today.

Sean is originally from New Orleans, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he had to make a decision: stay in the city and “figure it out” or move to Baton Rouge.

“It was lucky because while we lost our home in Mid-City, my wife at the time was given an opportunity with a great job [in Baton Rouge],” Sean says. “So, we thought we may as well take the blessings as they come.”

Starting over in a new city is not always an easy feat for a chef, but Sean says it made him more dedicated to doing something different.

For instance, Sean and 2012 Chef to Watch Ryan André cofounded a chefs’ guild known as GastreauxNomica, a network connecting chefs who, like themselves, prefer to work against culinary norms. The chefs of GastreauxNomica act as agents of change, shifting the focus to chef-driven dining experiences through pop-ups and more.

Sean highlights many of GastreauxNomica’s happenings through his own social media brand @FoodiePatutie, with tens of thousands of followers on both Instagram and Twitter getting a glimpse of GastreauxNomica’s “underground test kitchen.”

But now Sean has returned to the New Orleans area to work with Caro Mata Restaurant Group, who gave us Baru Bistro & Tapas and Brasa Churrasqueria, at Zócalo Cocina Mexicana & Cantina, which opened this year, focusing on Oaxacan cuisine.

“It’s all been storybook to this point,” he adds.

Blackened Redfish with Creamy Grits and Barbecue Butter
Yields: 4 servings
  • 4 (8-ounce) redfish fillets
  • ¾ cup plus 8 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 3 tablespoons Blackening Seasoning (recipe follows)
  • ¼ cup Barbecue Butter (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Creamy Stone-Ground Grits (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: sliced green onion
  1. Dip redfish fillets in ¾ cup melted butter, and place on parchment paper. Dust fillets generously with Blackening Seasoning on both sides, and press seasoning into fillets.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat for 10 minutes. Carefully place each fillet in pan, and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter over each fillet. Cook until bottoms of fillets are charred, about 2 minutes. Turn fillets, and pour another 1 teaspoon of the remaining melted butter over each fillet. Cook fillets until a little flaky on edges. (Cooking time will vary due to heat of pan.) Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. In a small skillet, add Barbecue Butter and cream. Heat over medium or medium-low heat until thickened, whisking until combined.
  4. Place Creamy Stone-Ground Grits in center of a serving plate, and top with blackened redfish fillet. Spoon Barbecue Butter on top. Garnish with green onion, if desired.

Blackening Seasoning
Yields: ¼ cup
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce by half if less spice is preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  1. Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder or spice grinder; process until combined to desired consistency.

Barbecue Butter
Yields: 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • ⅓ cup chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup chopped bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional, but encouraged)
  • ½ (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup pilsner beer
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ grapefruit, juiced (about 1½ tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Steen’s Cane Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons black molasses
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add trinity, garlic, rosemary, thyme, brown sugar, paprika, dry mustard, black pepper, salt, and cayenne; cook until trinity is tender and caramelized. Increase heat to high; stir in tomato paste. Add wine, beer, vinegar, grapefruit juice, and Worcestershire, and bring to a simmer, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Add tomato sauce, cane syrup, and molasses, stirring well.
  2. Cover and simmer over medium to medium-low heat until flavors are combined and desired consistency is reached, about 20 minutes. Strain sauce, discarding solids. Transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In the work bowl of a food processor, process butter until whipped and smooth. With processor running, slowly add 1 cup barbecue sauce until combined. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Creamy Stone-Ground Grits
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup Barbecue Butter (recipe precedes)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits*
  1. In a large stockpot, combine cream, milk, Barbecue Butter, and butter. Whisk in salt and white pepper to taste, and bring mixture to a rigorous boil. Gradually whisk grits into mixture. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low; cover and simmer until desired consistency is reached, 25 to 30 minutes.
*Regular grits may be substituted.


Join Sean Rivera and the other 2018 Louisiana’ Cookin Chefs to Watch for an exclusive six-course dinner at Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans! 

Louisiana Cookin' : Chefs to Watch 2018


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Rate this recipe:  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.