A Conversation with Gabriel Balderas of El Cabo Verde

Gabriel Balderas is the intensely focused young cook behind El Cabo Verde, a new pop-up restaurant and caterer serving organic, locally sourced Mexican cuisine at farmers’ markets and events in Shreveport-Bossier. El Cabo Verde (“Cabo” refers Caddo and Bossier, “Verde” is Spanish for “green”) debuted at the Benton Farmers’ Market on May 31, 2015. Though Balderas is very humble, he is also incredibly accomplished for his age. A quick scroll through the El Cabo Verde Instagram account (@elcaboverde) yields photos of Balderas cooking with Culinary Hall of Fame member Rick Bayless in Chiapas, Mexico and working in the kitchen of the James Beard House, where he has assisted in the preparation of two dinners. 

Despite having worked with some of the most successful chefs in the world, Balderas clearly does not go in for the “chef as rock star” thing. “I’m not a chef,” he told me. “I consider myself a cook.”

A photo of Gabriel Balderas
“I believe that you have to have a relationship with the farmer, as a cook,” Balderas said. “Millennials, and the generations who will follow them, want to know where their food comes from.”

Born and raised in Mexico, Balderas immigrated to the U.S. at age 16. As a child he’d accompany his grandmother to a local market, where she taught him the importance of selecting the freshest produce available. Growing up, as he puts it, “in a country without microwaves,” he learned to cook using seasonal ingredients purchased from local markets.

My first time eating at El Cabo Verde, I had a carnitas taco made with pork shoulder from Mahaffey Farms, served on a made-from-scratch tortilla and topped with El Cabo Verde’s salsa verde. It was one of the best tacos that I’ve eaten in Shreveport-Bossier and, at $4, it was one of the most inexpensive presentations of the outlandishly good pork from Mahaffey Farms that I’ve ever encountered. 

“I want this food to be available to everyone,” he told me. “I want to promote local ingredients and clean food, and have it be something that everyone can afford. I want to show people that it’s doable.”

El Cabo Verde will be serving chicken tacos, pork carnitas tacos, a local vegetable medley, aguas frescas and fresh salsas – as well as fresh tortillas cooked on the spot – at the Benton Farmers’ Market, 12-4 p.m., Sunday, July 5. They’ll also be at the Benton Farmers’ Market every Sunday through July 26, and will occasionally pop-up at the Shreveport Farmers’ Market. Chicken and pork for El Cabo Verde’s tacos are sourced from Mahaffey Farms in Princeton and veggies are sourced from Crawford Farms in Timpson, Texas.

El Cabo Verde is available for special event catering, and can be reached at (318) 459-8569.  

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