In 2017, we happened to meet Gabriela Palatchi Elhadef over lunch at Gjelina — three months later, she'd go on to open her first restaurant Gabfoods, an Istanbul cafe centered around healthful, plant-based ingredients that in many ways is an entirely unique take on "health foods" — a soulful, entirely specific blend of Gabriela's cultural identity — with an upbringing in Spain and adulthood in Istanbul. Since lockdown, Gabriela ingeniously pivoted her restaurant seemingly overnight, prolifically creating a beautiful line of pantry items, transforming Gabfoods into a takeaway market, and — somehow in the midst of it all — writing and self-publishing a cookbook, Casa.
Casa is, as she explains, a mix of this wide range of culinary inspirations, from comforting family recipes passed down from her grandmother to grain-free paleo bread and everything in between. We're honored to be the first US stockist to sell the cookbook (it's now available in-store!), and were thrilled to be able to ask Gabriela more about her journey.
All photos courtesy of Gabfoods.
We've not encountered a more unique restaurant within the Istanbul landscape — what was your motivation behind Gabfoods?
Coming to Istanbul meant leaving my professional life behind in Spain, and so in a way to let my “past identity” go and an opportunity to find my new identity. It was a wonderful time to rediscover my passions and my love of life, which I found out were in the kitchen. I started applying to a bunch of restaurants and I got rejected from all of them because I didn’t have any education in the field. So my motivation to open Gabfoods was simply to not give up my dreams because of a couple of rejections. I took it as an opportunity and so it started!
In addition to your restaurant, you also have an extensive product line, both in panty and home/ body – at what point in the creation of Gabfoods did you decide that this was something you were going to layer in?
The product line came into place about two weeks after opening Gabfoods. Gabfoods started as a weekly subscription organic paleo diet, soon after my clients lost their desired weight, they still wanted to order my breads, nut butters, granolas, etc... so I guess that product line came naturally.
We now also host online cooking classes, we send you the ingredients home and we all cook together! I love adding new products, or services to my company. It’s always fun to test it. We will be launching our European site soon and I also plan to have a home line. I must say Gjusta Goods is a total inspiration for me!
First of all my husband, my family, my team in Istanbul, and my friends, who were actually the ones that pushed me to open Gabfoods from my own kitchen.
And apart from the people, traveling, reading, speaking to strangers always brings a great deal of inspiration to me!
We love how you allow for recipes to be customizable for people with food preferences such as vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and paleo. You seem to have created the bridge between all worlds – was that always your intention when writing the book?
My intention was to write a book that would be complete in all the senses as an everyday cooking book. The book is called Casa because it's the food we eat in my home. We always eat very balanced meals, food that makes you feel good, and makes you feel you’re at home. There is a variety of food from vegan, to paleo to my mother or my grandmother's cooking. You will find traditional recipes like roasted chicken and a modern combinations of mine like Japanese porridge, from paleo bread to cardamom buns.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I wrote, photographed, and did the graphic design of my book during the confinement. I basically did the whole book by myself on Canva. I had an editor and that’s it! So I thought, why not publish it myself?
What was the highest point and most challenging point of writing this cookbook?
I started writing this book after my grandmother died. My grandmother, who was the best chef in the world, and who taught me everything there is about cooking, died at the beginning of the confinement because of Covid. I was living in Turkey and I couldn’t go back to Spain to say goodbye to her or be with my family. I felt really alone. I was speaking a lot with my family and we would remember all the amazing times we had with my grandmother, especially around food. My family worried that we had never written her recipes down so I took as my own mission to gather all of her recipes and write her recipe book.
Soon after I gathered the recipes, I started designing the book, and I thought, 'Now that my restaurant is closed, why not write my own book, too?'
Probably the hardest question of all to answer – do you have a favorite dish from the book?
Indeed this is a hard question but I will give you some of my favorite dishes:
Japanese porridge, Vegetable biryani, Challah bread, Cardamon bread, Banana Pudding, Coconut yogurt, grandma’s meatballs... I think I will end up mentioning all the recipes so I am going to stop it right here!
You are from Spain, your husband is Turkish and you split your time between Istanbul and Madrid. Do you have one favorite Spanish artist and one favorite Turkish artist that you would like us to discover?
Spanish artist - I love the architect Ricardo Bofill (check out his house “La Fábrica”).