Finding authentic Argentinean empanadas in Carpinteria has been easy since Luis Gutman opened Che Empanadas in Carpinteria Row alongside the brewLab and Apiary. Gutman moved from Argentina at the age of 21 and brought with him a family tradition of cooking Argentinian, Spanish and Italian food.
Made with fresh ingredients, Gutman’s empanadas are bursting with flavor and always hand sliced. His attention to fresh food and detail is a holdover from his upbringing. Gutman’s family would go to the grocery store every day. “We never had anything in the freezer and we always ate fresh,” he noted. “My father was a bit of a food snob. For him, the difference between white bread and French baguette mattered. I didn’t understand it when I was young, but I’m grateful for it now because it taught me to pay attention to the details.”
Although he is proud of his culture, Gutman’s not married to tradition. He likes to try new recipes and learn from other cultures. “When I started cooking, I realized that I needed to tap into whatever cultural background I have,” said Gutman. On pre-Covid Friday nights, Gutman would create weekly specials to afford him culinary freedom and flexibility. “I have made fish soup (with fish bones!), pizzas, marinated tongue sandwiches, Italian pesto pasta, tabbouleh salads, Asian-style ramen with veggie broth, New Mexican-style posole, slow cooked brisket, anything that tastes good to me.” Soon, Gutman had a following of people excited by his playful dishes.
“Everything starts with eating! A good cook is someone who first learns how to eat well. When it is time to cook, I let my intuition guide me,” said Gutman. For Gutman, the most enjoyable aspect of cooking is when he taps into the sensory memory people carry over from their childhood. “Those are the flavors and the sensations that resonate with you and follow you into your adult life, and that is what makes me vibrate in the kitchen,” he commented. “The other day, I made a salad for my Turkish friend Ali. He takes it to his shop and a few minutes later he’s calling me saying that it was exactly the salad he would always have in Turkey. He was coming close to tears over a salad!”
Gutman stressed that, for him, good food doesn’t have to be Argentinian. It just has to be something he loves to eat. “I have to enjoy what I eat before I make it for somebody else,” said Gutman. “I’ll sell the dishes I make, of course, but I’m trying to please myself first. Then if I like it, I feel confident to offer it to my customers. And if the customer discovers something special in that dish, then we have made a connection. That is the only reason to do this.”
Gutman can be found selling empanadas at 4191 Carpinteria Ave. on Fridays and Saturdays. He is currently offering on-demand services and lives down the block from the kitchen. Call or text (303)-478-9271 to place an order or visit @che.empanadas on Instagram for more information.