Photo: Tomasz Wagner
Gabriel Cabrera calls Vancouver home these days, but the food blogger behind Artful Desperado began life in Mexico City, where his world could not have been more different than his current one.
At age 22, about a decade ago, Cabrera was finishing up a degree in tourism management at the University of Mexico. “Then I was like, ‘I hate this! I’m not going to do anything with it,’” Cabrera told Yahoo Food. “So I left not even a year before I was done with my degree and I came here. I was pretty much a baby, still.”
The sharp turn of fate was inspired, in part, by a trip to Paris Cabrera took years prior as a teenager. His brother was working there as a pastry chef, and Cabrera was awe-struck by the scents wafting from corner boulangeries and brasseries. Tucking into his first-ever bowl of French onion soup, Cabrera was enamored by the uncomplicated, oozy deliciousness of it. “That was the game changer for me,” Cabrera recalled. “I was like, ‘holy cow.’ I want to do something that has to do with food.”
Poached pear clafoutis. Photo: Artful Desperado
Still, it took years before he was ready to take the plunge. When he did, he went all the way — enrolling in culinary school half a world away at Vancouver Community College. There, Cabrera rolled up his sleeves and learned serious French cooking. Mother sauces like béchamel, espagnole, velouté, and hollandaise became second nature, as did classic cooking techniques like braising, flambeing, sautéing, and poaching. But part of Cabrera’s heart was always in Mexico.
“Mexican food is my soul, and my favorite food, obviously,” Cabrera said. “When I get sick, I’m craving Mexican food. When I’m homesick, I want Mexican food. When I’m sad, I want tacos.”
After graduating Cabrera spent four years in professional kitchens in Vancouver, but another forgotten passion nagged at him. As a child, Cabrera’s parents made art appreciation an official family activity, dragging him and his brother to gallery openings and museum exhibits. Cabrera longed to incorporate art back into his life.
Strawberry cranberry pot pies. Photo: Artful Desperado
In 2009, he started his blog Artful Desperado as a way to explore new artists and interior designers. Over time, food began to creep in, and by 2013, Artful Desperado was a fusion of the two. Art and food make a surprisingly good team, Cabrera said. “A lot of my dishes [are] really inspired by when I look at art,” he explained.
The food Cabrera features on Artful Desperado is beautiful, to say the least. But it’s not the fussy stuff one might expect from a highfalutin art blog. “It’s always comforting and easy, but always with a seasonal component,” Cabrera said. “It’s very international — I don’t like using the word ‘fusion,’ because it’s tarnished — you think of crappy sushi places — but definitely there is an ethnic component, because I like to use spices on everything. Whether it be Moroccan or Mexican, there’s a little but of everything.”
Mexican hot chocolate. Photo: Artful Desperado
Artful Desperado has taken off in a major way since appearing on the blogging scene. With more than 73,000 followers on Instagram, the blog has earned a devoted following — enough that Cabrera was able to quit his day job and work full-time as a blogger, food stylist, and photographer. He doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I really want to experiment in the future with food and photography in a more artful way,” Cabrera said. “I want to do more experimental artwork with food and photography — I’ve been way too busy to be able to do that! Who knows, maybe at some point, even have that work showcased somewhere. Who knows!”
Looking for more fascinating food bloggers? Here you go: