Chef paves way for new plans

Daniel Ruiz was hired as the new head chef at Green River Brewing & Taproom in March. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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Patrons of Green River Brewing & Taproom have been treated to a new menu under the guidance of Green River’s new chef.

Head Chef Daniel Ruiz was hired in March, and immediately got to work on revamping the menu with new items and brought back some classic Green River favorites.

From fish and chips to New York steaks and a spicy chicken sandwich — co-owner John Neil said he is excited about what Ruiz is bringing to the kitchen at Green River.

“I threw him in the kitchen and had him do different dishes for me and everything that came out was bomb,” Neil said.

Culinary path
Ruiz said he discovered his path toward a culinary career by helping to cook burgers at family barbecues. He worked as a bar back in a restaurant when one evening he was assigned to work in the kitchen, and from there it was history.

“It started as a youth and backyard barbecuing. Once I got hired at an actual restaurant it all clicked — this is what I’m doing,” Ruiz said.

He began working at a classic American gastropub in Monterrey, and the chef took him under his wing and taught Ruiz everything he knew up to that moment. Ruiz went on to work in a French restaurant in Sacramento and gained experience in fine dining and working his creative skills in the kitchen. Ruiz said he has been actively working as a chef for about eight to nine years.

According to Ruiz, his flavor inspiration come from his roots and the foods his grandparents made featuring Italian, Yugoslavian and Mexican dishes. Ruiz enjoys taking traditional comfort foods and bringing the flavors up a level using the skills and techniques he has learned.

“I would consider my style as street food with a twist of fine dining, elevated cuisine,” Ruiz said. Some of his favorite dishes to make include burgers, street tacos, pasta and risotto.

Local connection
Ruiz is no stranger to Winters, as he worked in town at the beginning of his culinary career. He said he felt a real connection with the community’s agricultural roots.

“I respect the farm workers. I’ve worked on farms before when I was younger. I’ve harvested. There’s a lot of agriculture out here and that ties into the food,” Ruis said. “People don’t want things shipped. If it can be here locally then all the better.”

His goal is to work with the local agricultural community to support local farmers and to feature fresh produce from close to home on the menu.

“I’m going to try to make it as fresh as we can by working with local purveyors, having our meat be fresh, locally sourced. And our vegetables will be coming from our local farmers,” Ruiz said.

What’s next
Once hired, Ruiz began working to revamp the menu and bring back the family-friendly atmosphere.

“We’re not just a taproom. This is a very family-oriented place. We want to implement that back into our food — bring back the family style and integrity,” Ruiz said. “We want to let people know we’re on the path to something new here with the base of the original Green River.”

Neil said he brought Ruiz in to help develop a new menu for the Green River Park patrons during the summer, which would be separate from the menu served in the main restaurant. The goal is to prevent the kitchen from imploding and getting overrun when the park is hosting bands and events.

“When you’re in the park you eat from the park. When you’re in the restaurant you eat from here,” Neil said.

With the addition of what Neil called a “world-class smoker and grill,” Ruiz is busy working to craft summer menus featuring family-style barbecue and a new model for Green River’s upcoming inaugural summer launch.

“He’s young, eager and talented,” Neil said. “I’m super excited for Daniel.”

Ruiz said there are a lot of exciting things that they are contemplating for Green River’s future and he appreciates the warm welcome the community has given him.

“It’s a big role to take on, but I have great support from John. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Ruiz said. “I’m open to feedback, ideas and input — menu, styles, or if someone is really looking toward something. I want to hear it.”

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