John Rivera Sedlar grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in his early 20s gained acclaim as a chef in the South Bay region of Southern California. He then apprenticed himself to legendary French chef Jean Bertranou of L'Ermitage in Los Angeles, mastering classic techniques while evolving his own approach to food. While cooking at his own first restaurant, Saint Estephe, Sedlar began to combine the traditional food of his childhood with the classic French techniques he had learned, developing what he termed "Modern Southwest Cuisine." Soon, Bon Appetit magazine called the restaurant "among the very best in California, or even the West."
Sedlar went on to combine the best of the world's culinary influences at Bikini, a stunning Los Angeles restaurant he opened in 1991 to rave reviews, followed three years later by the equally well-received Abiquiu. Sedlar sold the restaurants following the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake to focus 100 percent on one of his lifelong dreams of building a food company to supply the home cook with dishes and ingredients from the Southwest. In 1999 he established Abiquiu Foods, LLC, which operates Sedlar's Modern Southwest Kitchen, a collection of contemporary tamales, chile rellenos, taco shells, and condiments.
Sedlar is also a top-notch restaurant consultant, making personal appearances and creating special menus for such organizations as the California Culinary Academy, the James Beard Foundation, Twentieth Century Fox, the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, and Walt Disney Imagineering. Through such work, he has traveled literally around the globe, including professional visits to Italy, Russia, China, Chile, and Japan.
Sedlar is the author of Modern Southwest Cuisine (Ten Speed Press, 1994), The Great Chile Relleno Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2000), the Tamale Poster (Ten Speed Press), and co-author of Tamales (Macmillan, 1998). He is the host of the video, Tamale Madness (American Videogroup, 1998). He has made frequent television appearances on such programs as "The Today Show," "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," "CBS This Morning," the CNN Network, and the Television Food Network. His awards and recognition include a listing on The Cook's Magazine Top 50 Who's Who of Cooking in America; and a place on Food & Wine magazine's Honor Roll of American Chefs. In September 1995, he received the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts magazine, becoming the youngest chef ever to garner that distinction.
In 2009, Sedlar opened Rivera—a restaurant that explores Latin cuisines of Spain, Portugal, South America, Mexico, and the Southwest—in Los Angelos to rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Gourmet, and Travel + Leisure.