Sean Rivera has his hands in many pots. The 41-year-old New Orleans native is something of a Renaissance man, who has become a leader in the Baton Rouge food scene in recent years.
A few current endeavors: He’s executive chef of Driftwood Cask & Barrel downtown and Coquille’s River & Rye in Madisonville, and he works closely with co-founder Ryan Andre on culinary think tank and underground test kitchen GastreauxNomica.
He is also brand ambassador for Rouses and the owner of the 101,000-follower-strong foodie Twitter account, @FoodiePatutie. You can thank his daughter for that Twitter handle. Back in 2012, Rivera was trying to think of a good username. His daughter, who was about 4 at the time, suggested “foodie patutie” after his nickname for her, “cutie patootie.”
Rivera has come a long way from cooking eggs for his parents as a kid. “I would scramble eggs and then I would just go in the spice cabinet and just dump whatever was in there, not really knowing what certain things tasted like,” he says. “It was just like OK, cinnamon, basil, whatever.”
Now, he says, his eggs are much better. But clearly, Rivera has always been one to break the mold and experiment. And one of his biggest objectives? Inspiring the next generation of chefs and encouraging them to push the limits of what Louisiana cuisine can be. He’s mentored Nick Puletti of Somos Bandidos and FreshJunkie, Beau Flaherty of Driftwood, and Sydney Harkins and Jamie Brown of BouillaBabes, along with several other up and coming chefs around town.
“I’m not going to be a great chef unless I have a legacy of chefs that have trained under me. It doesn’t matter how many restaurants you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you make off of it or how popular you are.”
Rivera says he wants the Baton Rouge culinary scene to be a place of reverence, for both people and food. He wants food to be “respected as art in this town.” With his continued hard work, and the hard work of everyone who works with him, that dream doesn’t seem so far away, after all.
“Cooking is the thrill of camaraderie, of accomplishing goals with a team. It’s everybody looking at each other with that adrenaline and those endorphins flowing, saying ‘Man, I’m ready to do this tomorrow, all over again.’ Those are the moments you live for. Like, putting a menu together, from the beginning to the end, actually executing it, and getting recognition from customers, or just people saying ‘Man, the food is really good at Driftwood,’ or ‘The food is really good at this place.’ Those are the things that drive me to want to do it.”
This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.