The news that Rivera will be closing at the end of the year, which came via Eater on Tuesday, was a shock to many in Los Angeles who have eagerly followed chef John Sedlar’s journey since he opened the restaurant in 2009. Rivera, which featured diverse flavors from North Africa to Europe to the Americas, evolved often.
Now Sedlar is ready to move on to his next phase.
“The dining scene has changed a lot since we opened Rivera, and so has Downtown L.A.”, says Sedlar, who’s working to open a restaurant in his hometown of Santa Fe but not abandoning Los Angeles. He has plans for an L.A. restaurant on the Westside next year.
Rivera opened well before the current wave of restaurants diving into modern takes on Latin cuisine, mostly Mexican flavors, helmed by chefs from Sean Brock to Danny Bowien to José Andrés. For a short time, Rivera stood alone as the only Modern Latin cuisine restaurant in the country.
Sedlar, though, has been a trailblazer since 1981 when he opened Saint Estephe in Manhattan Beach, introducing the world to Modern Southwestern cuisine. At Rivera and at his forward-looking Playa, Sedlar was restless in his pursuit of the next thing in Latin gastronomy. But his future-of-Latin-cuisine concept, Playa, closed a year and a half ago, and Sedlar has been going nonstop for the last five years with little time to recharge. Closing Rivera gives him the opportunity to immerse himself in his forthcoming New Mexico restaurant, Eloisa, which is named after his grandmother.
He’ll be shuttling back and forth between L.A. and Santa Fe. He also wants to take some time to travel and look for inspiration for his next L.A. venture.
Rivera has long been known for painting Latin cuisine in bold colors on a canvas etched by the spice and chile trades — it’s been a workshop for local chefs and the L.A. cocktail scene. It’s been a place that has hosted the most famous Latino chefs in the Americas, as well as the young up-and-coming founders of Alta California cuisine, with exciting collaboration dinners.
Rivera, which was met with critical acclaim both locally and nationally will be missed, but count on Sedlar to remain a big part of L.A. restaurant culture next year.
Rivera, 1050 S. Flower St., Suite 102, Downtown, (213) 749-1460