After reopening the doors to The Cellar Steakhouse on Main Street last week, hungry customers have been making their way down to the restaurant to indulge on delicious steaks, cold beer and some special dessert, crafted with passion by the new Head Chef, Danielle Reed-Rivera.

Reed-Rivera brings with her years of culinary experience. She went to the culinary school in San Francisco, and the travelled to France and Italy to complete her culinary internship. She has been  mentored by Patrick Clark, a famous chef who died young but was featured in last months edition of Food and Wine. She has experience as an executive sous-chef at the restaurants like Hay Adams in Washington D.C., Tavern on the Green in New York City and executive chef at Ciudad in Los Angeles. She also has been a private chef to celebrities. 

Although she is new to the area, Reed-Rivera plans to keep the tradition of The Cellar alive and well for the community. Reed-Rivera has partnered with The Cellar’s owner John Woodmansee, who grew up in Porterville and graduated from Monache High School. His experience working in a restaurant comes from working for Sue Maxwell at the BlueMax Restaurant at the Porterville Municipal Airport while he was in high school. He has since worked for JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Mercedes and currently for NBC/Universal.

“John is a local boy. He grew up here. It’s part of his history and he just saw the opportunity and wanted to keep it alive and going,” said Reed-Rivera. “So many people love The Cellar and want it to be brought back. It’s so much a part of some people’s childhoods, so that is what we want to build on.”

To keep the tradition alive, Reed-Rivera and Woodmansee have decided to keep the original menu, but spice things up with seasonal dishes and desserts.

“Our goals for The Cellar are to keep the classics, the integrity of the menu and the personality of the restaurant,” said Reed-Rivera. “We love all the classic things on the menu, but we just sort of want to lighten things up and update some things. We have added specials, and are playing around with dessert by trying a few things.”

One of Reed-Rivera’s goal is to connect with local farmers and offer local produce for the dishes that come out of her kitchen.

“I am new to the area but I’m really excited to meet with the farmers,” she said. “This is where so much of the produce comes from for our whole country, so I’m really excited to get to know some farmers and to showcase some local products. I’m looking forward to building relationships with some local farms.”

Reed-Rivera is anticipating lunch hours for The Cellar, but was uncertain of when their lunch service would begin, but said it will be soon.

“When we open for lunch, we will start to showcase more,” she said. “I’ve been in the kitchen a long time, and I get a lot of joy out of feeding people.”

Although, no structural renovations took place before the reopening, the inside of The Cellar received a small makeover, and a nice scrub down, from floor to ceiling.

“There was no structural renovations done,” said Reed-Rivera. “We did the floor and painted and gave it a good scrubbing and did some electrical work.”

With a team of strong women behind her in the kitchen, Reed-Rivera will be pushing for successful services each time the restaurant is open. Working as her sous-chef is Stormy Gonzales, her cook is Joanna Aldaco, and the front of house manager is Sunni Rafanon. The entire staff is excited to serve the community with great food and service to match.

Reed-Rivera introduced tonight’s special; a pan-roasted petite tender (second in tenderness to the filet mignon) with creamy mashed potatoes, fresh asparagus and roasted peppers, topped with a roasted garlic red wine sauce. Guests can finish off their meal with the fruity, fresh nectarine crisp, but this dessert will change seasonally.

“We want to honor the previous owners with the utmost respect, and keep doing the great food that they did,” said Reed-Rivera. “We are very happy and very grateful to be a part of the community, and to keep such an institution alive and well.”

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