Casazul Brighton

Gabriel Gutierrez


@casa.azul.brighton

Gabriel is the chef owner of Brighton’s taqueria, Casazul. He previously ran the catering facilities for the Institute of Development Studies based at the University of Sussex Campus, he was there for 17 years.

He has also worked for several restaurants in Brighton, including Al Fresco, Café Pasta and Pizza Express. Gabriel owned a restaurant in Mexico City before moving to the UK in 1995.

TELL US ABOUT THE FOOD YOU COOK AND WHY YOU LOVE IT

I like to cook all kinds of food, I see it as a social event, not only fuel. I am currently cooking my native Mexican food to show its simple and natural flavours. I love to see the way that the food that I cook can excite people who have not had these flavours in a long time or can ignite so much curiosity from those who never tried authentic Mexican flavours.

WHERE WERE BORN / WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I was born and raised in Mexico City. A lively, bustling city where food is at the centre of the culture. From street food tacos to the fine dining experience, there is history to every dish. A lot of my inspiration for how I live my day to day life comes from the Mexican mindset. Work hard but enjoy what life is really about. For me that’s family, community and food.

EARLIEST FOOD MEMORY

Believe it or not, I grew up as a fussy eater. My mother would cook these incredible dishes for my siblings and just one certain dish for me. I do remember one day being convinced to try cactus. Much to my mother’s amazement, it turned out to be a game changer for enjoying flavours. The cactus was simply grilled and full of flavour with this incredible texture. I have loved introducing Casazul customers to cactus and the different ways you can cook it.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN BRIGHTON?

The long and short answer to this question is love. I met my wonderful wife in 1988 when she was visiting Mexico. She left Mexico and I followed her. We have now been married 33 years with our beautiful daughters, granddaughters and Casazul to show for the wonderful time we have had together.

TELL US ABOUT THE JOURNEY TO OPENING YOUR OWN FOOD BUSINESS

From the moment I knew my career would be in the food industry, I had always dreamt of opening my own place. Casazul is actually my third attempt at opening my own place and I truly feel that it’s my third time lucky. From the experience and knowledge that I gained from 30 + years in the industry, I knew it was time to start again, start small and plan big.

Casazul opened in 2019. It was a brave decision as I left my catering job of 17 years and decided it was now or never. No one could have forewarned me that in less than a year we would be facing the uncertainty of a pandemic… Well, we all know how that one went and I truly feel so fortunate for the way it turned out for us. 2 years into the pandemic, Casazul is standing strong with plans to expand. Watch this space.

WHAT PASSIONS DO YOU HAVE OUTSIDE OF WORK?

My work truly is my passion. I think that anyone who has come to talk with me knows that I love talking about my food, sharing my food and socialising with just about anyone who walks through the door. It is the same in my home life. Our home is always full of life, our stomachs are full of food and we love spending time together.

BEST KITCHEN MEMORY

The kitchen is the heart of our home and we have had so many meals served at our table. We have friends from all over the world that have come to cook their favourite local dishes. I have gotten to try Korean, Palestinian, Italian, Brazilian, Nigerian food to name a few all without leaving my house. People come because they know how much respect I have for the food and sharing this is something I will always treasure.

WORST KITCHEN MEMORY

When I started working in a well known food outlet (I won’t name names) I was shocked at the lack of respect towards food. Food would be put on the plate without any regard for the quality, taste or customer experience. It felt like a lack of respect for the food industry, it seemed money was the only goal, the food wasn’t important. As well as this being my worst memory, it was also a real eye opener for something that I vowed I would never fall into. If I were ever to feel this way about sharing food, then I would know something really needed to change.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE COMFORT FOOD?

Going right back to when I was a fussy eater and all I would eat was steak and rice. Nothing really beats a high quality cut of meat. My taste buds have matured a little since those days and I’ll throw in some grilled vegetables and sometimes a peppercorn or balsamic sauce to pair with my meat… and don’t forget the glass of wine!

IF YOU WEREN’T WORKING IN FOOD, WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU BE DOING?

I have always had an interest in international and public relations. I actually studied it at the Open University. I loved the social aspect with people sharing their experiences. I am sure I would still find a way to tie it all together with food.

TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULDN’T EXPECT ABOUT YOU

I don’t know if there is anything that people wouldn’t expect from me, I’m pretty direct, open and honest. I am fiercely loyal to those around me. I guess it may come as a surprise if you hear me belt out La Bamba…but once you’ve heard it once… I’m sure you’ll be hearing it again.

WHAT FOOD TRENDS DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE IN THE COMING YEARS?

It has been so fun to be a part of the vegan movement and to learn along with so many about the improvements that can be made in the kitchen to live a more sustainable life.

I love that cooking and eating is becoming more regional eg. Sicilian, Neapolitan, even regional Mexican foods on our menu. There are many changes coming. People are looking for more authentic food, smaller menus. I love being a part of this and can’t wait to see where it goes.

WHAT ASPIRATIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR CAREER / BUSINESS IN THE FUTURE?

I would love to see Casazul continue to be the fun, explorative and eye opening space that it has become. I would love to see more people having access to our flavours and expanding that throughout the UK.

I feel so inspired when I see people trying something new and liking it. I have big dreams and all we can continue to do is go one day at a time.

NAME A RECIPE EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IN THEIR REPERTOIRE

A nice tomato sauce that can be used all year round as a base made with good quality ingredients, tomatoes, oregano etc. It doesn’t take long and can be paired with many things. The fresher the ingredients the better.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?

From travel, different countries , I like to spend time where local people eat. I get the best inspirations from these places. Even when it’s something I have never tried. I like to ask friends from other countries to teach me a recipe from their culture.

RESTAURANTS YOU WANT TO VISIT

Maybe to a Blumenthal? I love how experimental and playful his creations are.

I truly am always open to trying new food though. As a business owner myself, I love to support and try the new family run restaurants that open.

FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT IN BRIGHTON & HOVE

This depends on my mood, I usually cook at home anything that I fancy. I like simple food, maybe a nice steak. I like Argentinian steak, where the quality is good, this is a treat.


Follow Gabriel Gutierrez
@casa.azul.brighton

Published: 15th March 2022

More interviews