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Gutierrez Gustavo

Gustavo Gutierrez

Cubita Cafe

Biography

As a kid growing up in Hudson County the “street life” was always attractive to me. “Everyone wanted to be a gangster.” After getting in trouble with the law countless times, I decided it was time to do something with my life before I ended up dead or in jail. I went for a tour... READ MORE

As a kid growing up in Hudson County the “street life” was always attractive to me. “Everyone wanted to be a gangster.” After getting in trouble with the law countless times, I decided it was time to do something with my life before I ended up dead or in jail. I went for a tour of the Art Institute in NYC and instantly thought that this was something I could see myself doing. The next semester, the Art Institute unfortunately shut down their culinary program. I tried other jobs, but they all sucked, and I was bored out of my mind.

The following semester, I discover the culinary program at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City. It was close to my home and had many accolades ranking them as one of the top culinary schools in the country. I signed up and while taking classes, started working at a restaurant called La Isla in Hoboken. After La Isla, I assisted in opening Son Cubano in West New York, followed by Le Cirque Manhattan, and eventually worked under the super talented John Karangis for Danny Meyer. I then had the honor to work with Hell’s Kitchen winner Ariel Fox, opening and assisting her in over 15 restaurants across United Airlines Terminal C AT EWR. After that, I went on to head one of the most successful Kosher restaurants in the tristate area, called The Ridge. There, I established and operated the longest dry age program of any Kosher restaurant in the country and really broke some boundaries of what is considered kosher cuisine. Of course, there was a lot of restaurants in between. Even the short-lived ones, all played a part in where I am today.

It seemed I was always running from my roots, and I thought Cuban cuisine was behind me. “I’m a fine dining chef” was my new way of thinking. Or maybe it was my ego…I will never truly know. Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic hit and I was quarantined at home with my pregnant wife who, bless her, would get really pissed every time I would want to be creative at 3am and sear a steak and set off the smoke alarm. Or maybe it was her waking up to me plating 5 course meals with no one to feed. I was antsy and didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought back to my first memories of food and it always came back to holidays in my family’s house, with everyone crowded around a counter, crimping empanadas with a fork. I thought to myself, how can I elevate this? I have never seen anyone make the empanada dough from scratch and everyone closes them the same. So, I thought, “great I’m going to make the dough and close it completely different.”

I made 13 empanadas the first round. I posted a picture of one on my Instagram, and my wife and I proceeded to split that empanada. As we were eating, the DMs started to come in. “Hey, can I buy some?” I sold the other 12 and set up shop! Suddenly, I was now slinging empanadas out of a two-car garage all through the pandemic. The buzz was so great. After our healthy baby was born, the pandemic died down a bit, I decided that maybe it was time to go back to my Cuban roots after all. We opened a store front in Nutley, NJ in January 2021. During a time that was filled with so much uncertainty and fear, I not only received one of my greatest blessings in my daughter, but also, I found one of my greatest blessings in rediscovering myself in my Cuban culture.

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