Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Images by Gabriel Cabrera; profile photo by Tomasz Wagner; graphic by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

On a boutique-lined street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a cookie shop that has captured the hearts and taste buds of those near and far. This cookie shop, Hello Robin Cookies, is run by the seriously talented Robin Wehl Martin, who can whip up a batch of delicious cookies in just eight minutes. Growing up, Robin spent time learning how to bake with her grandma, and she now spends her days making the most amazing cookies you’ll ever taste. With cookies such as classic chocolate chip, Habanero orange, and Mackles’more, Robin has created treats that are addicting after just one bite. Continue reading to learn how Robin got to where is today, to hear her thoughts on culinary school, and to find out her best cookie baking tips.

Name: Robin Wehl Martin
Age: 43
Education: B.A. from Central Washington University; Master’s Degree from Seattle University
Follow: TwitterHello Robin Cookies

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Robin Wehl Martin: I think of it in a weird way where you’re not necessarily seizing it, but you’re maintaining it. By certain choices and things that you do, you’re always staying youthful. There are people who are so much younger than me but they are like a 65-year-old man in the way they act and think. They’re not playful or curious. Keeping all of those traits active help.

CJ: What did you major in at college and graduate school, and how did you determine what to study?

RWM: I have an undergraduate degree in Community Health Education from Central Washington University, and that’s the one I wish I had pursued more. At Seattle University, I received my graduate degree in Student Development Administration, and I had dreams of working with students.

The Community Health Education was random, and I took a health class that I loved. The professor was so dynamic. I went to school thinking I was going to do something with broadcast journalism, but then the health stuff really got me.
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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

RWM: I graduated from Central, took a year off and worked for the university, and then went to graduate school. I worked during undergrad, worked all during graduate school, and then went I got out of graduate school, I worked for a small non-profit in Seattle for four years. Most of my work has been in non-profits.

CJ: What sparked your interested in baking?

RWM: My grandmother was a baker. She was born in Germany, and when the war broke out, she and her family moved to Shanghai and lived in the ghettos of Shanghai for 10 years. When her family was able to move to the United States, her trades and skills were in baking and cooking. She worked at some great bakeries in Seattle, and I always loved baking with her. That was my training.

CJ: Did you go to culinary school? What are your thoughts on culinary school?

RWM: I wanted to go to culinary school, and I thought for a while that I would go. But then I realized it wasn’t totally necessary for what I wanted to do. I have three kids, and I didn’t think it was going to be the best use of time for my family and for what I was going to get out of it.

All of our friends had restaurants and people always asked when we would do something because were always cooking and hosting at our house.

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CJ: How did you know when you wanted to turn your passion for baking into a profession?

RWM: I had slowly done it in my house. It happened naturally, and then when Molly Moon and her husband came to me and asked if I was interested in opening a bakery, that’s when everything started.

CJ: You opened your cookie shop, Hello Robin, in December 2013. What inspired you to open a bakery that primarily sells cookies (and Molly Moon ice cream)?

RWM: I just really truly love cookies, and if you do one thing and you do it well, then that’s a good thing.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your bakery?

RWM: Balancing family with work. That’s hard, especially because my kids are still little. But it’s fun because my husband and I both want to be here. We both really like being here still, and my kids really like being here also.

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CJ: What is your favorite part about your job?

RWM: I really love all the customers. I love the creative process, I love the good feedback. It’s all so good and better than I ever could have imagined. I love that we took a risk and it worked out. I love that Molly believed in us.

We’ll always say yes to the customers, because I really want everyone to have a great experience. The experience, the aesthetic, and the product are really important things.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

RWM: Surprisingly, we go through a lot of ice cream sandwiches. I had no idea, I just thought it was going to be cookies. It’s exciting to be one of the first places in Seattle to be making ice cream sandwiches with great ingredients.

CJ: What are your cookie baking tips?

RWM: Use really good ingredients, don’t over mix, don’t over bake, and practice a lot. Also, freeze the dough, which helps maintain the shape and texture.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery do now to set themselves up for success?

RWM: Get a job at a bakery and practice. Make tons of stuff and give it away. And don’t get cocky because you have to be open to learning. Maybe consider culinary school. Culinary school is right for a lot of people and you’ll learn different things. Go to the bookstore and read through cook books and try new recipes. The most important thing is really just practice.

CJ: What do you like to do when you’re not baking cookies or running the business side of things?

RWM: Sometimes I’ll just go home and make cookies. Going from a large scale to a tiny batch of cookies was hard! I still relax by baking cookies. I do a lot of cooking.

CJ: Have you ever worried about turning a hobby into a career and then not liking it anymore?

RWM: I have worried about that but I don’t think it’s going to happen because I love it too much, and I have been doing it for so long. Before this I was making cookies for my friend who has a restaurant in University Village. I find it relaxing and it’s a great way to zone out. Everything about this job is fun.

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CJ: How long does it take to make a batch of cookies?

RWM: I can do it fast, probably around eight minutes to mix the dough, and then ten minutes to bake.

CJ: If you could open another cookie shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

RWM: Amsterdam, because it is so beautiful. If you walk around the good parts of Amsterdam, there are beautiful boutique stores. It’s visually stunning, and I think it would be fun to be there with all that. I don’t think I want to open another store, though. I want to be here and know my customers and see the cookies going out. It’s not a control thing, but more of just being present here.

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CJ: What motivates you?

RWM: I am motivated by doing my job well. I don’t want any products going out that I wouldn’t eat. I have to feel really good about everything that goes out. I am motivated by the quality of the product and the happiness of the customers.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

RWM: I would not have gone to graduate school right after college because I think you need time to figure out what you want to do. I would have waited and then I probably would have gone to culinary school. That’s the big one.

I also would say to be more relaxed. When you’re 20 you feel so old and like you need to be accomplished, but you’re still so young. Try a bunch of things out and do what is fun. You have to do what you enjoy.

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