B-Yourself: Gabriel Marrero

Name: Gabriel Marrero (Gabe)

Age: 35

Hometown: Morovis, PR

Occupation: Environmental/Chemical Engineer, Restaurant owner

Is Tropicaleo your first restaurant? yup

What kind of food do you offer? Puerto Rican food with an emphasis on healthier alternatives. We have a full selection of plant based, gluten free, and keto options.

Other than plant based foods, what do you offer on the menu? All sorts of Neoclassical Puerto Rican Cuisine, including the best Cuban sandwich in the US (with its plant based version as well!)

What is the reason you decided to open Tropicaleo? We wanted to bring food through culture and culture through food. Birmingham has a thriving food scene but is lacking in both authentic ethnic cuisine and plant based/gluten-free options, so we are here to fill that gap. The fact that it gives me a safe place to eat is a big bonus.

Why did you become a plant based? I’ve been allergic to eggs for more than a decade. I ate plant based for environmental reasons for a few years, but gave it up for about a year.  After an emergency gallbladder surgery I became allergic to phosphates, which limits my diet severely. So I’ve been either plant based or lacto-vegetarian for more than a decade.

Is your plant based lifestyle influenced by anyone? No, there are no plant-based diets in the sticks of Puerto Rico.

To what degree are you a plant based? I don’t believe in plant basedism for the sake of itself. Instead, I believe that the healthiest approach to food is to eat foods that are as natural and minimally processed as possible. Unfortunately, in a metro city area, unprocessed foods and foods without added preservatives is very hard to come bye. This makes a whole food plant based diet the easiest way to achieve this dietary goal. Of course, the fact that it also strongly supports environmental sustainability is an added benefit.

Are any of your friends/family vegetarians? Some friends. No family

How easy do you find buying plant based foods? Super easy, anything that’s in a supermarket that doesn’t have animal products is plant based. The trick is finding places that have any.

Do you think being plant based is a healthier option? Both for people and the planet. If you try doing a sustainable plant based diet for a month, you will discover that there are things about your health that improve, that you didn’t know could be improved. It’s really life changing.

Have you had any negative health issues to do with your diet? My diet is actually what’s making me healthy.

Do you take an iron supplement? No, my diet includes portions of leafy greens that are rich in iron, like spinach.

Do you think you get enough protein? Yes. Beans, especially soybeans, provide more than enough protein. In fact, most people who eat large quantities of meat over-consume proteins, and feel worse as a result. They just don’t know why.

This next question I’ve always wanted to ask a plant based… do you know any plant based that are also gluten free? About 15% of my customers eat gluten free, about 30% percent of my customers are plant based. There’s a lot of cross-pollinating in those groups, so yeah.

Favorite book? American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Other favorite food spots around town that might offer plant based options? Shu Shop. New China Town, Golden Temple, Hot Diggity Dogs, Taj India, Thirsty Donkey, Taco Bell (Order “Fresco”, and get Breakfast sauce)

What do you do when you’re not at the restaurant? Either with my son or playing Dungeons and Dragons.

What is an average day like for you? Wake up at 6AM, take the puppies out for a walk, answer 50 messages, buy anything that’s missing for the restaurant, puse for rainforest sounds, slave away til 9pm, eat at Taco Bell, take the dogs out, pause for more rainforest sounds, rinse, sleep, repeat.

Motto/Mantra: Be better every day

Most overused words/phrases?  Not today, Satan.

One thing you can’t live without? My son, Lucas

What gets you out of bed every morning? The thought of being able to make a difference in the world.



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