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Interview: Chef Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro on upcoming Chef & The Baker

There’s an exciting new concept coming Friday, June 12th, 2020 to the Hall on Franklin food hall called Chef & The Baker from Chef Rosana Rivera and Chef Ricardo Castro. I had a chance to ask them a few questions about this new initiative and how things have changed since the pandemic began.

CARLOS EATS: First off – How have you guys been getting by during the pandemic? 

Chef Rosana: We pivoted early on in the pandemic through R2 Provisions, our ghost kitchen in Pinellas Park, to do delivery of products, Xilo Mexican favorite food items, bakery items like bread, and provisions like eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, and toilet paper. The response was phenomenal and we are so grateful that Tampa embraced the concept, no questions asked. 

Chef Ricardo: We continue to service via delivery from R2 Provisions. Customers can order through r2xilokofe.square.site.

Pastries from Chef and The Baker at Hall on Franklin.

CARLOS EATS: Chef & The Baker is a highly anticipated project considering your past with Piquant. How will this project be different?

Chef Rosana: The recipes have been tweaked and perfected. Chef Ricardo, over the past couple of years has really honed in on his talent and craft to become an even better baker. 

Chef Ricardo: We will have artisan breads, more viennoiseries (pastries), and a higher quality of patisserie items (cakes and European tortes).

CARLOS EATS: Who are some people you look up to in the baking world and is there any pastry or bakery chefs who inspire you? What are your favorite bakeries around the world?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Belinda from B Patisserie in San Francisco, Eric Kayser from Maison Kayser in NYC & Paris; Antonio Bachour from Bachour Miami; and the quintessential Francois Payard from around the world. However, there are a lot of up and coming pastry superstars that we are always following and trying to learn from like Johan Martin.

CARLOS EATS: When it comes to ingredients – What makes a quality baked good different? Does water make a difference?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Best quality of ingredients is crucial and yes – water quality makes a huge difference. There are some things we have little control of – but buying the best ingredients is something we can control, especially when it comes to baking ingredients. We buy flours that are unbromated, we use cage-free eggs for baking applications, all-natural products, European chocolates, filtered water, and butter with a higher fat content. It all makes a difference in the quality of the product you bake.  We never cut corners, you can taste the quality.

CARLOS EATS: Food enthusiasts have been making their own sourdough starters at home during the pandemic as people tried to find a way to get through being home constantly and still enjoy the things they love. What trends do you see emerging in the baking world and how will it change in the future? 

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: More at home baking for sure! Our plan is to launch a virtual cooking kitchen class in which we are able to share our knowledge with our audience on a digital, but interactive format. I think the love for the art of baking is going nowhere, on the contrary its getting better and better.

CARLOS EATS: Industry experts say the pandemic has changed how goods are bought and prices of food seems to be going up. How are you dealing with that?

Chef Rosana: We are sticking to our prices as much as we can, and if we can’t do that – we try to minimize the impact by increasing the price by 25 or 50 cents. Our margins are taking a hit and are reduced, but at the end of the day we want to be conscious of how people spend their money. We don’t want or need to abuse.

Koign Amann from Chef and the Baker at Hall on Franklin in Tampa.

CARLOS EATS: Which menu item would you say is the most complex or time-consuming dish you make? Can you tell us more about it?

Chef Rosana: Anything croissant, which is easily a 72+ hour process, but we love it and our guests love anything croissant that we do. My favorite item is the Kouign Amanns.

Chef Ricardo: That is how I make the croissants, not everyone follows that. It creates better flavors as the dough ferments slowly. My favorite item is The Morning Buns (citrus crispy laminated dough) is my favorite item on our menu.

CARLOS EATS: What made you both fall in love with baking? 

Chef Rosana: I fell in love for baking because of Ricardo. Every day I see him bake I am in awe of him!

Chef Ricardo: I fell in love with baking when my Mom AKA Chef Cookie, would teach me how to bake things since I was 9 years old. Later, Chef Rudy from Austria took me under his wing and taught me everything European pastries. The right way and the best way!

Don’t forget to check out Chef & the Baker when it opens on Friday, June 12th at 11AM at the Hall on Franklin at 1701 North Franklin Street Tampa, Florida, 33602.

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Articles Restaurant News

Tampa Chef Rosana Rivera successfully ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ on Food Network

Tampa Chef Rosana Rivera made history as the first Latina woman to beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network on December 26th, 2019. She first beat her husband and business partner, Chef Ricardo Castro, in an elimination round before Bobby Flay using the papaya secret ingredient on a special episode called “It Must’ve Been Love”.

Bobby Flay has a fairly high win-ration that is over 60% of his competitions so this is no small victory for Chef Rosana Rivera.

The dish that beat Bobby Flay. Chef Rosana Rivera’s classic empanadas. Photo Credit: BKN Creative

Chef Rosana Rivera beat Bobby Flay with her beef empanada recipe. Flay had equipment malfunctions during the battle and a track record of empanada fails.

“This experience has been one of the highlights of my year. I feel super proud as a Female Chef, Entrepreneur, Puerto Rican, and Tampanian to have had the honor to not only participate in Beat Bobby Flay but to have competed against Ricardo, my other half in business and life. Ricardo is a Chef that has my utmost admiration. Most importantly, competing against Iron Chef Bobby Flay is an experience I will never forget. I have a deep respect for his talent, charisma, and the amazing team that works with him. It is an honor that I was able to cook side by side with him, compete against him, and can proudly say I Beat Bobby Flay,” said Chef Rosana on her win.

The couple previously owned the French-inspired bakery Piquant and are currently proprietors of Xilo at The Hall on Franklin in Tampa. The Chefs also own R2 Provisions, a national catering company, and a gourmet food truck. Additionally, they also own Kofe, The Hall on Franklin’s in-house coffee bar.

You can watch the episode on the Food Network’s website here: http://watch.foodnetwork.com/tv-shows/beat-bobby-flay/full-episodes/it-mustve-been-love

Chef Rosana Rivera has shared her beef empanada recipe with us. Disclaimer: This recipe is not to be shared without the author’s permission. Chef Rosana can be reached at chefrosanarivera@gmail.com.

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Restaurant News

News: Petit Piquant now closed. New concept in the works.

Scoop: Petit Piquant located near North Hyde Park is now permanently closed. The French-inspired bakery served a wide range of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee. I was personally a big fan of their Kouign-Amann pastries.

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Coming soon, Tampa! 🌮🌮🌮

A post shared by Xilo Mexican (@xilomexican) on

Rumor Mill: The owners Ricardo Castro and Rosana Rivera are pursuing a new business venture called Xilo Mexican Steet Food. The concept was first used a pop-up at The Hall on Franklin in Tampa Heights.

More details as I get them!

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/xilostreetmexican/

Check out Xilo Street Mexican on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/xilostreetmexican/

 

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Restaurant News

The Hall on Franklin now in soft opening in Tampa Heights

Have you heard the buzz? Tampa Heights is booming. Ever since Ulele opened doors, businesses have been flocking to the area and tonight The Hall on Franklin had a family and friends night, which I attended.

This new food hall is now in soft opening and you should definitely be patient as they figure out their kinks and get this show going, but there is much to be excited about.

What’s a “food hall” you ask? It is essentially a business that sells a variety of food from different stands indoors. The first concept of it’s kind in Tampa Bay was the Locale Market in St. Petersburg which is owned by Chef Michael Mina.

The Hall on Franklin is different in concept and combines different food entrepreneurs and chefs together into one building. It was hard to imagine how it was all going to come together until I experienced it for myself tonight and I have to say I was completely impressed and surprised at the quality establishment that has surfaced.

I visited nearly every stand tonight for a bite and drink and found that all the food was of excellent quality. Despite being a family and friends night and having the stress of POS systems, the staff was completely friendly and hospitable.

The Hall on Franklin is what would happen if you dreamed of all your favorite things in one place without having to drive around. You can visit the kiosks yourself to order food or have a waiter bring you food.

Parking is available on the street or via valet which will hopefully be a regular thing.

The best part? The quality is only matched by the prices that are fair and allow you to actually try all the great spots inside the building with tons of options from sides, different sized entrees, drinks, and desserts. I happened to meet developer Jamal Wilson during the preview who told me that is exactly what they were going for.

Some thoughts:

Poke Rose: Finally some real poke in Tampa. Every last bite was delicious and packed with flavor. Make sure to ask about spicy levels. Chef Jason Cline left me happy and I can’t wait to come back for more.

North Star Eatery: I have followed Xuan since Anise Gastrobar opened (one of my favorite bars in Tampa) and I am never disappointed with her business acumen. The pork yakitori was an excellent side dish and I look forward to coming back to try her ramen in the future and of course some Stinky Bunz.

Bake’n Babes: I first tried Bake’n Babes at Ginger Beard Coffee a few weeks ago in an affogato. Their ice cream rivaled Revolution Ice Cream, no lie. Lord – I tried the Bacon Beer Battered Cupcake tonight though and it was one of those moments where you pop food into your mouth and feel instant delight. This is a sweets empire in the making.

The Heights Melt Shoppe: I split a Philly Sub with a friend and could not stop putting it in my mouth. Every last bite was excellent. Wow.

The Collection: The bar is beautiful inside The Hall on Franklin. The bartenders were very friendly and easy to talk to. There is a happy hour (YES) and plenty of cocktail creations on the menu that I want to try. For tonight, I tried their signature beer “The Hall Pass” ($6) which is made in a partnership with Hidden Springs (keeping it local) and has hibiscus, yuzu, and cucumber. Anyone could drink this delicious craft beer.

Ko-fē: Tonight I had a butterscotch cappuccino made with Buddy Brew beans. They plan to roast their own beans in the near future. The barista noted their espresso machine is not to be messed with.

The only booth I missed was The Heights Fish Camp (we were way too full!) – but the lobster corn dog nuggets and fish and chips will be something to look forward to in the future.

Something great has been released into the City of Tampa with The Hall on Franklin and I have good feelings.

Visit The Hall on Franklin online at http://thehallonfranklin.com/