Gabriel Cabrera is a food and prop stylist who runs a gorgeous food, art, design, and culture blog called Artful Desperado, and we were hooked after seeing just one blog post. The photos will make you want to take photography (and perhaps even food styling!) more seriously, and Gabriel’s writing is fun, catchy, and engaging – you won’t be able to visit his blog just once.
After having studied Tourism Management at Universidad Anahuac, Gabriel received his Culinary Arts degree from Vancouver Community College. The skills he learned from culinary school comes into play every single day, whether he’s dreaming up a new recipe for Artful Desperado or for his Stylist job at Luvo Inc.
We are excited to share this exclusive interview with Gabriel, where he shares his top three photography tips, his favorite dessert he’s ever made, and an inside look on what his blog and stylist duties entail. Read on for more culinary inspiration!
Name: Gabriel Cabrera
Education: Tourism Management from Universidad Anahuac; Culinary Arts from Vancouver Community College
Follow: TheArtfulDesperado.com / Instagram / @ArtfulDesperado
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”
GAB: I think the process of seizing your youth never truly ends. To me it’s a constant state of mind where you must take every opportunity you can to shape your future. Seizing your youth is a life-long learning experience through trial and error. This means you cannot give up and you cannot shy away from creative/life challenges, otherwise you will be giving up on some very valuable life lessons (which by the way, are tuition free!). Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always end up with a new skill that will help you get closer to success.
CJ: You majored in Tourism Management at Universidad Anahuac. How did you determine what to study?
GAB: I chose Tourism Management based on my personal interests, which are travel and food. It was a tricky choice! You know, turning something you love into your full-time job may not be what you would expect. When I chose Tourism Management I thought “I’m going to travel everywhere for a living!” I was wrong; I was stuck in an office making sure everyone was enjoying their vacations, and that killed me. Some people thrive in the service industry, but not this cat.
CJ: You then went on to receive a Professional Certificate in Culinary Arts from Vancouver Community College. What sparked your passion for food and cooking, and what was your culinary school experience like?
GAB: I’ve always loved cooking. I was born in Mexico, so food is a HUGE part of our culture, pretty much every social interaction revolves around food (fine by me!). I wanted to do something with this foodie passion of mine, so I decided to take it to the next level in cooking school. I knew it was going to be hard work (despite what everyone thinks, a kitchen is more like the military than what you see on the Food Network). I had some really stressful moments where I thought to myself “why am I doing this!?!” but deep inside I knew I had to keep going. I did, and I don’t regret it one bit. I think that’s key – you’ve got to listen to your inner voice. Your gut is right 99.9% of the time and if something feels like it fits despite the stress and sleepless nights then it will turn out for the better. Trust me, your sweat and tears pay off!
CJ: You run the stunning blog, Artful Desperado. What inspired you to start your blog, and what do your blogger duties look like?
GAB: The blog started as a creative exercise to train myself to be more aware of what was happening in the art, design, and food world. From then on it took off and it changed a bit to be more focused on food and styling which is what I do.
My blogger duties are basically wearing many hats! Copy-writing, photographing, styling, editing, business skills (to create partnerships with sponsors or brands) and even a bit of HTML coding (for any bugs that may happen). A “day in the life of” looks like this: gather inspiration for a new post, test the recipe, gather props and ingredients, cook, style and shoot, edit, write the blog post, and promote to social channels. Mind you, due to my work schedule I currently don’t blog daily, I only update once a week-ish.
CJ: What is the best piece of advice you would give a baking/cooking enthusiast?
GAB: Travel! Seriously, get out there. Cookbooks are awesome, and so are ideas from Pinterest, but traveling is just the real deal. You don’t have to go somewhere extremely expensive or exotic (though, if you can, then yes! by all means go), you can do trips in your state or province and try different things you’d never try before. Architecture, culture, nature; all of them will have a major impact on the way you see/create food.
CJ: You take gorgeous photos on Artful Desperado and your Instagram. What are your top three photography tips?
GAB: Top three would be: 1 - Great lighting. Lighting is key to achieving a great photograph, learn the basics and practice as much as you can and soon enough you’ll start seeing it everything in a different light (pun intended). 2 – If it doesn’t look good, then don’t share it. The Internet is full of images, no need to add something that’s not appealing (there’s plenty of that already). Just Google “Martha Stewart food photos” and you’ll see what I mean. 3 - Experiment. Try different set ups and styles until you find the one that fits you, this also helps you learn lots about styling/photographing in different situations so you’ll become a pro.
CJ: You are also a photographer and stylist at Luvo Inc, a company that provides healthy and convenient premade meals that are good for you. What does your role as photographer and stylist entail?
GAB: My job is making sure we visually showcase our food and team recipes in the best way possible, according to brand standards and also depending on what our customers love. I also coordinate our photo shoots making sure we have everything we need: food, props, equipment, etc. On a typical week I’d be brainstorming for a shoot, hunting new props, working with our team to design a set for our “scenes,” cooking, and testing recipes, etc. It’s busy!
CJ: What is your favorite meal or dessert you’ve ever made?
GAB: That would be a very simple and easy Mexican flan - honestly, whenever I make it it’s a couple hours before I eat it all. I love it because it brings back so many childhood memories and tastes like heaven.
CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the culinary world?
GAB: Have stamina! The kitchen is tough place. Also try to gain as much experience outside of regular work; go intern at a top restaurant or practice at home with friends and document it (these are the baby steps of starting to build your own recipes). Surround yourself with activities that will enrich your culinary style: go see some art shows, watch food documentaries and movies, check out classic cookbooks from the library. The more you know your craft, the more you’ll get noticed in the industry. Basically you’ve got to build respect from day one. Street cred, ya know!?
CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?
GAB: I’m old-school and I use a monthly planner (an actual notebook) and a sketchbook. In my planner I put every single deadline I have and the name of the project. Any additional notes such as number of assets I need to create (e.g. number of photos or looks), shopping lists, mood boards, fabric samples, etc. they all go in my sketchbook in the appropriate project. Needless to say my sketchbook gets HUGE! But it’s nice to see all the things you done and keep all that important creative information for future projects.
CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care about? If so, why?
GAB: I’m not sure if it’s a cause but it’s something I really care about: I am pro-food-happiness and anti-internet-stupidity. The first means to be happy with your diet: don’t be vegan just because, don’t eat a bunch of meat just because do it because you actually enjoy it. If you’re a concerned about the environmental impact, then make better choices such as eating cruelty free products. If you’re a vegetarian and you want to eat a spicy chorizo sandwich then do it! Whatever you choose, do it because it makes you happy.
The second is so important and I feel the new generation of youngsters need to learn more about it: everything you post online will stay in there forever and ever, so be careful and internet-etiquette savvy.
CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?
GAB: That would have to be negative feedback. As a creative I really take it to heart when someone doesn’t like my work. I’ve learned that is not the end of the world - different strokes for different folks, right? Instead of shutting down, I’m working on taking the bits that will help improve my work and move on.
CJ: What is your favorite book?
GAB: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi.
CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?
GAB: I bake and/or go to take photos outside my home. Baking for me is like meditation as you’ve got to visualize your recipe, measure ingredients, etc., and the rewards are always oh-so-sweet (another pun!). Taking photos just for myself and not for work is also the best, a lot of times I go out and take a ton of photos and then delete them all. It’s kind of therapeutic.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
GAB: Quality not quantity! Back then I felt I needed to have a lot of everything: friends, contacts, clothes. Really tightening your social life, contacts, and finances helps you stay focused on the things that matter.
Images by Gabriel Cabrera; profile photo by Tomasz Wagner; graphic by Carpe Juvenis