A fixture of Greenville’s dining scene, Rick Erwin’s West End Grille has been a fine-dining favorite since 2005. Recently, the menu, which highlights Prime steaks and fresh seafood, got an update with the arrival of a new executive chef, Wilberto Sauceda.
Good for the Liver // Chef Wilberto Sauceda, the new chef at Rick Erwin’s West End Grille, brings an elevated presentation to fois gras and corn cake “French toast” on his chef’s tasting menu.
Sauceda, who was born in Honduras and moved to Miami when he was 12, relocated with his wife, Kelsey, to her hometown in early 2017 and nailed the job at Rick Erwin’s. “My philosophy is that you play to the strengths of your people,” says restaurateur Rick Erwin. “Chef Wilberto has a clear love for food, as well as a positive attitude and an incredible smile.”
That sunny smile is the first thing you notice about this chef, whose roots growing up on a farm inform what he does today (despite his claim that he always wanted to be an airplane engineer). After dropping out of college, Sauceda got a job in a restaurant. Before he knew it, he was hooked.
In Miami, he worked for nine years with James Beard Award–winning chef Michelle Bernstein, who he credits as his culinary mentor. “I learned everything from her,” Sauceda admits, “including French technique and the speed and coordination required to cook for big events.”
Since he favors Mediterranean cuisine, the chef plans to bring in more whole fish from Spain and Greece, while revamped sides will include a paella made with Carolina Gold rice. Diehard fans of the restaurant can relax; Rick’s beloved signatures—such as the dry-aged steaks and the Company Crab Cake—will remain.
Playing with Food // Dinner gets a gorgeous upgrade at Rick Erwin’s West End Grille. Sauceda (middle) infuses a heavy dose of whimsy into Rick Erwin’s dishes; the loup de mer (left) and steak sampler with a Kobe beef butter lollipop (right) are examples of his vision.
One of the biggest changes is the addition of a seven-course chef’s tasting menu. It is here that Sauceda enjoys free license to play to his passion for fresh ingredients, many of which he finds at Greenville’s TD Saturday Market every weekend. “The tasting is my way to connect with my customers, and just have fun,” Sauceda maintains.
His idea of fun might be a creamy white-grape gazpacho that has no cream in it; the silky texture results from emulsifying olive oil. Or pairing a snowy square of halibut with a sweet roasted tomato dressed with house-made pesto on a bed of cauliflower purée. He might even shave fresh black truffles from Italy over seared foie gras atop a piece of corn cake “French toast” at the table.
What Sauceda calls a “palate cleanser” reads more like an intermezzo dessert plate: cheeses with truffle honey and Marcona almonds, raspberry macarons filled with savory goat cheese cream, and fanciful foie gras and chocolate mousse lollipops. Later, a steak sampler— dry-aged New York Strip and center-cut filet—is adorned by another lollipop, this one a knob of decadent Kobe beef butter to melt into the meat.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Sauceda relishes the time he spends with his wife and baby daughter. He also fulfills a need for speed by attending the Indie 500 and Daytona 500 races every year.
Sauceda loves to see people’s faces light up when they taste his food. “You don’t have to tell me if you like it,” declares the jovial chef. “I can tell by your face.”