Family living in Franklin, N.C., brought chef Daniel Rivera from Florida to the Carolinas. And now at his new position as executive chef at Caviar & Bananas Greenville, he’s using a Friday special to benefit Puerto Rican hurricane relief efforts, some of which may reach his family members who remain on the island and are still without power.
On Fridays until December, Rivera is serving up The El Jibarito (meaning “country boy”), which is a tribute to Rivera’s Puerto Rican heritage and inspired by street food and memories of his grandmother’s cooking. The sandwich is served on a crispy plantain “bun” with roasted mojo pork, caramelized onions, gouda, bibb lettuce, tomatoes, and sofrito sauce. It comes with a side of pigeon peas and sweet plantain escabeche salad. The special is $11, and 20 percent of its sales go to UNICEF.
Rivera says his family members live in the mountains of Puerto Rico and have been able to live off their land and local resources since they lost power and roadways off the mountain have been impassable. In order to talk to them for 10 minutes a day, Rivera may call 10 times to get through – reception on their end is spotty at best and depends on whether they have enough aluminum foil or not.
“They’re doing it old school,” he says. “They’re moving forward as they can.”
The El Jibarito, while receiving high praise from the C&B management team, likely won’t become a regular offering on the menu because green plantains, which replace the bun in a regular sandwich, are difficult to get in South Carolina, Rivera says.
The Johnson & Wales University-educated chef worked for more than a decade with Loews Hotels at its various Florida locations before moving to Season’s at Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, N.C., six months ago to be near his brother’s family.
He says in the last six months, he’s seen his brother, sister-in-law, and their three young children more than he had in the last 10 years combined.
“You focus so much on the business that you forget about family,” he says about his motivation to move north. “I should be able to find a way to do what I love to do and still be a part of my family.”
Three months ago, he moved to the C&B position, and while much of the breakfast and lunchtime menu is pre-determined, he’s been able to put his own stamp on the dinnertime small plates offerings, which rolled out last week.
Highlights of the fall season-inspired menu include a pumpkin hummus with assorted vegetables, toasted pita; grilled broccolini, almond gremolata, balsamic gel; a roasted beet salad with goat cheese flan, port ver jus; sweet potato hash with sunny side up egg, arugula emulsion; crispy chicken and pecan waffle with piquillo pepper syrup, blackberry chutney; Southern crispy oysters, creamy grits, crispy prosciutto; pan-seared duck breast with parsnip puree, raisin mostarda; and pastrami-braised beef cheeks with red cabbage puree, truffle frits.
Rivera says the new menu will rotate frequently based on best sellers and the change of seasons.
“Pumpkin and December don’t go together,” he says.