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The factor is, Mr. Rivera by no means had any intention of promoting meat.

A New York Metropolis native and barbecue aficionado, he grew to become obsessive about a piquant sauce he tasted in 2009 at a Mets recreation. He got down to recreate it at residence, a quest that led him to stop a safe job as an govt chef and enter culinary college.

By 2019, he was advertising and marketing his personal sauces, which evoke flavors of conventional Puerto Rican cooking. He used the Father & Son’s moniker, with a label that includes a snapshot of him and his son stirring a pot.

Then the pandemic and an harm saved him residence. Mr. Rivera trawled on-line for insights.

In 2021, he began promoting his sauces on the weekends on the Gun Hill Brewery within the Allerton neighborhood of the Bronx till it closed final month. A buddy introduced a smoker for meat to make it simpler for purchasers to style sauce samples. Meals ran out in three hours, he mentioned.

“The meals outshone the sauce,” he mentioned. “The breadwinner was the meals.”

What Mr. Rivera assumed could be a weekend one-off is now on the verge of turning into one thing else, he mentioned: a full-time small enterprise, with assist from his spouse, Jasity Soltero, their 17-year-old son Mason, and a few cousins as wanted. Mr. Rivera has developed a menu that includes his tackle Puerto Rican classics like roast pork or yellow rice with pigeon peas. He needs to remind those that Puerto Rico’s Indigenous folks additionally barbecued meats.

“He has the best-tasting brisket I ever had,” mentioned Miguel Antonio Salamanca, a chef, at a latest neighborhood competition at Co-op Metropolis. He added: “I felt this was the place to be.”

Relying on how a lot meat goes within the sandwich and the standard of the reduce, the worth of the meal in New York Metropolis can vary from as little as Mr. Rivera’s providing, which is his greatest vendor, to over $20 elsewhere.

Challenges and surprises abound, together with fluctuating meat costs and rising prices for diesel gas and paper merchandise, mentioned Ben Goldberg, co-founder of the New York Meals Truck Affiliation. The pandemic led to extra outside occasions, which may truly be extra worthwhile for meals distributors than avenue gross sales, he mentioned.

Even so, Mr. Rivera’s enterprise takes a whole lot of work. Typically he prepares meals at a industrial kitchen in Westchester County, which prices him $100 to $300 a go to. He typically sleeps in his pickup truck in a single day when he cooks meat for an occasion, and he tailors sure menus. For Co-op Metropolis, he added a meat and three-side combo plate for about $20, and to maintain households completely satisfied, he provided scorching canine, fries and juice packing containers.

Mr. Rivera has to remain nimble, like when his pickup truck broke down and a rental price him $500 for the weekend, although he solely wanted it for a day and a half. His favourite brioche rolls usually are not at all times out there, so he may swap to a less expensive possibility final minute.

However there are vibrant spots: His plan to go full time after three itinerant years retains him motivated. His first worker exterior the household, an apprentice, will probably be a assist.

“What’s stopping me is I’m at that apex the place I can see the view from the highest,” Mr. Rivera mentioned. “Now I would like a employees I can prepare and stroll away for a day.”

Produced by Eden Weingart, Andrew Hinderaker and Dagny Salas. Growth by Gabriel Gianordoli and Aliza Aufrichtig.

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