Celebrating Global Culture with Food

With a Passion for Innovation and Regional Culinary Traditions, Noah Rivers Honors Cultural Appreciation Holidays and Icons at Touro's Kitchen

May 13, 2024
Cold kitchen lead Noah Rivers holds one of the salads that he makes daily in the TUC kitchen

If you’ve browsed the cold case at Touro University California (TUC) cafes, then you’ve noticed that the salads, sandwiches, wraps, and dressings are often celebratory, like a vegan side salad of Puerto Rican style mashed plantains (mofongo) for the island’s Emancipation Day.

Or the mushroom Beyoncé burger, a veggie burger topped with a blend of mushrooms, meant to bridge the transition from Black History Month in February to Women’s History month in March, as delightfully as the singer goes from opera to country.

This is the handiwork of Noah Rivers, who leads the creation and production of all the items in the cold portion of the café.

Each month celebrates something; April is Jazz Appreciation Month but also Arab American Heritage Month, and Autism Acceptance Month, plus Passover between April and March,” says Rivers. Dishes included a Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Salad that used marinated Haitian-style chicken for Haitian Heritage Month, Tabbouleh for Arab Heritage Month, and a red beans and rice side salad in honor of Louie Armstrong for Jazz Appreciation Month.

When Rivers joined Touro in December of 2022, Chef Ray Nottie challenged him to express himself while being in charge of the cold menus. For Rivers that meant finding inspiration in his Southern roots.

“Cooking originates from my southern side,” Rivers says, citing the influence of his parents, grandparents, and relatives in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. It's a personal connection to family and heritage, and that culinary journey is a tribute to the flavors of his upbringing and the traditions passed down through generations.

As a self-professed foodie, Rivers also finds inspiration in the restaurants he regularly seeks out in his local and far-off travels, adding these ideas to his menu creations at TUC. The innovative flavors, from pineapple-chipotle ranch to creamy cilantro-jalapeño salad dressing, are used to commemorate different cultures, traditions, and figures in the rotating menu of salads and sandwiches.

“Not only am I getting a fantastic meal, but Noah takes the time to explain the history and meaning behind the creations,” says daily customer Andrea Garcia, Vice President of Advancement and Director of Diversity and Community Affairs. “It’s one of the most educational meals I have.”

Despite his culinary skill, Rivers remains humble in the face of new challenges. "I get nervous when I'm making new things," he admits, recalling a moment of uncertainty while preparing West African Jollof rice. “When I see that people like it, I feel relieved. It's nerve-wrecking, and if it's good, I’ll make it again and if it doesn't sell, then I won't.”

In the kitchen of TUC, Rivers is more than just a cook—he's a culinary storyteller, weaving tales of tradition, culture, and flavor with every dish. Through that passion, Rivers invites the TUC community to celebrate each other and their culinary creativity, one plate at a time.