Chef Oscar del Rivero, of Jaguar Ceviche and Talavera, Gets the 10

Certainly, chef Oscar del Rivero is not responsible for bringing ceviche to Coconut Grove or authentic Mexican eats to the Gables. But many folks will attest that his seafood creations at Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & Latam Grill and flavorful plates at the new Talavera Cocina Mexicana have raised the bar. 

The Johnson & Wales grad hails from Mexico City and has traveled extensively through Central and South America to taste traditional dishes. He also trained in esteemed restaurants such as Blue Door at the Delano, the Palm Hotel, and Talula before becoming partner and executive chef at Jaguar and Talavera.

If you meet him and get in his good graces, perhaps he'll hook you up with a few tacos de cecina. But if you get a sense he's just not that into you, don't push it: This chef seems a little too eager to experiment with entomologic epicureanism. 

New Times: What were your best or worst dining experience? 

Oscar del Rivero: I truly enjoy Mexican tacos in the marketplace. Traveling markets are so common in Mexico that they appear one day of the week around your neighborhood. On Thursdays, I would come down from my apartment and go directly to the tacos de cecina stand. These tacos have cecina (sheets of beef, marinated and dried), grilled onions, French fries, and home-style pork rinds. You ask the taquero for as many as you want, and he prepares it right away. There are some wooden stools, but it is imperative for the experience that I eat my tacos standing. Then I put fresh salsa verde and freshly squeezed lime juice. The tacos are overloaded and have a double tortilla (with copy, they call it, "con copia"). When you take the first bite, whatever does not make it into your mouth is left over so you can continue to eat it with your second tortilla. This particular taco goes great with an apple soda or, if you feel like celebrating, beer... All the intensity in flavor of this dish and the surroundings are a show in itself. You see all kinds of people walking, buying, selling, and the occasional mime or clown just looking for a coin or two. This experience might not seem too fancy, but it is one of the best culinary experiences of my life.

Which famous chef, alive or dead, would you like to shadow for a day (assuming you haven't already had the chance)?

What is your dream culinary trip? 

Oaxaca market in Mexico, learning about crickets, ant eggs, worms, and all edible insects.

Without naming the person, what three words would you use to describe the worst celebrity chef alive today?

Arrogant, clumsy, careless.

Why do you think restaurants are hotbeds for sexual activity/relationships? 

I don't think that.

What's your favorite music to cook to?

Latin jazz.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?

An actor.

Which chef, alive or dead, would you like to challenge in Iron Chef fashion? Why do you believe you could kick his or her ass in the kitchen?

I would challenge Marie-Antoine Careme, "the king of chefs and the chef of kings." He would definitely kick my ass. But I would love to see him in action.

What's your favorite food-/cooking-related joke?

Two cannibals meet one day. The first cannibal says, "You know, I just can't seem to get a tender missionary. I've baked 'em, I've roasted 'em, I've stewed 'em, I've barbecued 'em, I've even tried every sort of marinade. I just cannot seem to get them tender." 
The second cannibal asks, "What kind of missionary do you use?" 
The other replied, "You know, the ones that hang out at that place at the bend of the river. They have those brown cloaks with a rope around the waist and they're sort of bald on top with a funny ring of hair on their heads."

"A-ha!" he replies. "No wonder! Those are friars!"

Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who...? 

Has long fingernails.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Riki Altman