A self-coined “jack-of-all-trades,” Executive Chef Eric Rivera can do just about anything, it seems. We’re thrilled to now have him at the helm of our bustling kitchen.
The Olympia native majored in biology with a minor in music, yet he went on to run a successful mortgage, insurance and financial services business after graduation. However, in the midst of this booming career, Eric constantly found himself in the kitchen, fueling a passion he picked up from his grandfather. (The two used to cook together in Puerto Rico.) Eric recalls, “I sponged off of everything he did, so when he was cooking, I would help out as much as I could—whether it was stirring soup or cutting odds and ends to make something amazing.”
Thankfully, Eric took a leap of faith that has benefited all of our palates. He sold his house, closed his business and attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle, while working full-time (at Seastar, then Blueacre). He then pursued an amazing opportunity at Chicago’s lauded Alinea, where he quickly became the restaurant group’s Director of Culinary Research Operations before moving back to Seattle to work as the Huxley Wallace Collective’s Director of Culinary Operations and Innovation.
The Bookstore Bar & Café proves a popular downtown destination in any season, but the colder months seem the perfect time to cozy up in an inviting scene that welcomes guests to pluck mid-meal reads off communal shelves. Eric’s fall/winter ingredient list is long and alluring; think “truffles, drake ducks, Neah Bay black cod, Ivory King Salmon, squash from King’s Garden, persimmon, purple potatoes, red watercress, chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms, cauliflower mushrooms … everything!”
As we approach this season, Eric suggests the following menu: begin with chicharrones, hazelnut and the grilled mushrooms, followed by poke, black cod, and finishing with the hottest hot chocolate. Ever the perfectionist, Eric explains, “I am constantly changing the menu, tweaking dishes and developing new ideas. Since I have started, I have had menu changes every week, and daily tweaks are part of the everyday process. We are constantly pushing to excel.”
Eric loves being a chef in the Pacific Northwest, a destination he claims has “the best ingredients in the world when it comes to produce and seafood. Nobody can touch us.” Living in Chicago—and watching deliveries come into Alinea’s Midwest hub from his home state—reminded him of our good fortune.
Fun fact: this talented chef cooks to a soundtrack, with background music constantly playing. He admits, “I lose my mind, in a great way, when Daft Punk comes on.” If given the option, he could happily eat pho every day.
Eric says that his career highlight—so far—has been watching cooks that he’s hired become chefs of their own restaurants. Next on his wish list: “A James Beard Award with my name on it,” he confidently answers. Somehow, we feel that this dream is not very far-fetched at all.
Black Cod with Cauliflower Mushrooms, Walnuts, Leeks, Beluga Lentils + Pickled Shallots
Ingredients:Ingredients for the black cod: 4 oz. black cod 3/4 oz. Arbequina extra virgin olive oil 1/2 tsp. smoked black pepper Grapeseed oil, for searing Ingredients for the fried cauliflower mushrooms: 1 oz. cauliflower mushrooms 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes 1/4 tsp. Maldon sea salt 1 /4 tsp. smoked black pepper Ingredients for the pickled leeks: 1 leek, white part only, julienned 1/2 c. white wine vinegar 1/2 c. + 2 T. water 1 1/2 T. sea salt Ingredients for the fried leeks: 1 leek, white part only, julienned Grapeseed oil, for frying Sea salt, to taste Citric acid, to taste Black pepper, to taste Ingredients for the fried beluga lentils: 2 1/2 c. lentils, uncooked Grapeseed oil, for frying Ingredients for the fried capers: 1 c. capers Grapeseed oil, for frying Ingredients for the beluga lentil purée: Half of the cooked lentils (approx. 5 c.) 2 1/4 t. black pepper 2 tsp. sea salt 1 1/2 c. chicken stock 2 tsp. urfa biber 1 tsp. smoked shiitake Ingredients for the pickled shallots: 2 shallots, thinly sliced 1/2 c. white wine vinegar 1/2 c. + 2 T. water 1 1/2 T. sea salt Chamber vacuum sealer, for pickling Ingredients for the peeled walnuts: 1 pound walnuts Ingredients for the fermented eggplant: 6 c. diced eggplant 1 c. salt 1/4 c. sugar Mother of vinegar
Directions:To prepare the black cod: In a sealed bag, combine the black cod with the extra virgin olive oil and black pepper. Sous vide for 113˚F/45˚C. Chill and reserve for service. To pick up, place black cod in water bath at 45˚C for 4 minutes, remove from bag, pat skin side dry and sear at high heat with grapeseed oil. To prepare the cauliflower mushrooms: Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add grapeseed oil. Fry the cauliflower mushrooms for 2 minutes, then toss with the red chili flakes, sea salt and smoked black pepper. To prepare the pickled leeks: Slice rings of leek and place in standard pickling solution until pickled. To prepare the fried leeks: Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add grapeseed oil. Fry the leek for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the sea salt, citric acid and smoked black pepper. To prepare the fried beluga lentils: Soak the lentils for four hours, then pressure cook for 4 minutes. Reserve half of the batch for puree. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add grapeseed oil. Fry the lentils for 6 minutes, then remove from heat. To prepare the fried capers: Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add grapeseed oil. Fry for 4 minutes, then remove from heat. Combine with the fried lentils using an 80/20 ratio lentils to capers. To prepare the beluga lentil purée: In a large mixing bowl, take half of the cooked lentils and mix with black pepper, sea salt, chicken stock, urfa biber and smoked shiitake. To prepare the pickled shallots: Combine the sliced shallots in a pickling solution, then quick pickle in chamber vacuum sealer. To prepare the peeled walnuts: Soak the walnuts in water for 10 hours. Drain and peel off the skin. To prepare the fermented eggplant: Cut the eggplant into a large dice, until there are 6 cups total. In a large mixing bowl, combine the diced eggplant with the salt and sugar. Cover and let sit for one day. Rinse off the salt, then add the mother of vinegar to the eggplant. Leave to ferment for seven days. and leave to ferment for 7 days. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.