Latin American cuisine is famously delicious and it was with the beloved empanada that Puerto Rican Chef Rosana Rivera made history when she won against acclaimed Chef Bobby Flay during his competition show on Dec. 26. She became the first Latina in Food Network history to win on Beat Bobby Flay, where two chefs initially compete against each other in order to get the chance to compete against Flay for the bragging rights if they beat him. The win is even more personal considering Rivera beat her husband, Chef Ricardo Castro to get the chance to compete against Flay.
“I had no doubt she was going to win. I knew it. I teared up when they said her name. I’m super proud of her achievement,” Castro told PR News Wire.
For the first round, the secret ingredient they had to cook with was papaya, with Rivera making papaya salad with prawns and pea tendril salad with papaya dressing, while her husband made green papaya and shrimp salad over whipped ricotta with papaya tartine. For the winning beef empanada dish Rivera made, she used her grandmother’s recipe for the dough which includes adding vinegar. Flay also used vinegar but he experienced some equipment malfunctions and has a history of empanada fails which attributed to why Rivera won. Flay wins roughly 70 percent of the time hence the significance of the bragging rights.
“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,” she told PR News Wire.
The couple owns Xilo Mexican in The Hall, a high-end food hall on Franklin in Tampa, Florida which sells the winning empanada, as well as Kofe, which is the in-house coffee shop in The Hall. In addition, they just opened their own catering company and food truck called R2 Provisions.
“It’s something every Puerto Rican family makes,” Rivera told the Tampa Bay Times. “Bobby Flay got beat by empanadas! It’s something we could both make with our eyes closed.”