Chef Gabriel Balderas brings homegrown flavors and passion to Shreveport with two unique restaurants that focus on fresh ingredients and authentic tastes with a modern twist.
Growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico, Balderas helped his mother and grandmother cook over an open fire and had never used a microwave – and still doesn’t. After immigrating to the US, he moved around to Kentucky, Chicago and Birmingham before finding his place in Shreveport in 2006.
El Cabo Verde opened in 2016 with a mission to bring a fresh twist to authentic Mexican cuisine including a promise to have everything prepared from scratch.
“Cooking for us is almost like we believe in home-cooked meals, things from scratch,” said Balderas. “I’ve worked in restaurants long enough to know that most restaurants don’t do that. Everything comes out of the back, reheat and then serve.”
Balderas takes inspiration from his upbringing and watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, taking those principles of authentic, home cooking and elevating them.
“I believe there are two ways of looking at food because I’m not the type of person that believes that there’s a rule of cuisines,” Balderas explained. “I believe in good food and good ingredients. It doesn’t matter what your concept is, if you follow good food and good ingredients.”
Balderas opened Zuzul Coastal Cuisine in 2019. It focuses on fresh, sustainable dishes inspired by coastal Latin America. It shares the same mission of fresh ingredients and good food.
To achieve their commitment to fresh ingredients, Balderas buys the bulk of them from local farms like Mahaffey Farms, Smith Family Farms and Shady Grove Ranch.
Balderas also has a small organic garden on one side of El Cabo where produce is featured on the daily specials. Soon, he hopes to open a farm of his own filled with chickens, fruit trees, vegetables and more.
Moving forward, Balderas wants to have the community get involved with education opportunities by seeing how dishes get created from farm to table to show the importance of supporting local farmers, restaurants and a better understanding of where your food grows.
“We want to teach our community about how our food is raised and grown the right way and that’s our goal for the next year to create a space for people to come and see the whole process.”
Community is a huge focus for Balderas as well, because he sees it all as a cycle.
“Our goal has always been to create a network of local producers and support community because you think about it, those people you support can also be your very same customers,” explained Balderas. “You keep it local and it’s a way to create customers because they come in and support your vision because you support them. If you do that, these relationships will be there for the rest of your life.”
El Cabo Verde is located at 1023 Provenance Place Blvd. in suite 210 and open Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Zuzul Coastal Cuisine is located at 1370 E. 70th St. in Shreveport’s Fern Marketplace and open Tuesday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Meredith G. White is the arts and culture reporter for the Shreveport Times. You can find her on Facebook as Meredith G. White, on Instagram and Twitter as @meredithgwhite, and email her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Shreveport Times: Locally sourced, fresh takes on Mexican and Latin cuisines in Shreveport