Farm-to-table dining isn’t just a fancy turn of phrase for this immigrant restaurant owner from Shelley.
Born and raised in Bolivia, Chef Marcel Gutierrez immigrated to the United States at 26 years old. He and his wife now own a little farm in Shelley that produces much of the ingredients Marcel uses in his restaurant, the Arugula Deli in Idaho Falls.
“Everything we produce in Shelley, we bring here. The vegetables, the beef, the chickens…I have about 250 hens, and we use all the eggs from them. The idea of this business is a farm-to-table type restaurant. I want to provide almost everything. We plan to have three greenhouses this year,” Marcel said.
That is on top of the already two and a half acres he uses as a garden.
“Of course,” he continued, “there are some things I won’t be able to provide- avocados, lemons and limes, pineapple…but we want to provide a majority of the stuff.”
Marcel’s main motivation, however, is cooking for school children. Arugula Deli is connected to Alturas Academy, and he provides school lunches for the children that attend school there.
“We keep the same farm-to-table concept going for the school meals. Everything is organic, I try to provide as much as I can from my farm,” he said.
Marcel said he loves being able to provide such healthy meals for the children.
“We believe that when they have healthy nutrition, they will perform better in school,” he explained.
He described a time when he approached the school district so they could approve a menu for the school. One of the dishes was a pasta dish. He makes his own pasta from scratch with organic flour and eggs from his hens.
“They couldn’t believe that I would provide something like homemade pasta,” Marcel said with a grin.
Marcel hopes to expand his cuisine district-wide. He said there’s a lot of paperwork and rules and guidelines to make sure the government approves, but it’s worth it.
Marcel’s two children are homeschooled. This makes it very easy for them to be involved in the family farm.
“Slaughter a chicken? That’s a class right there. Baking bread? That’s chemistry. Building something? Measuring and math. So they’re involved in everything we do on the farm,” Marcel said.
His menu features foods from all over the world. We have tried several dishes, but our favorites include his Cubano sandwich (delicious, even when compared to what you find in Miami), and the chicken chimichurri sandwich. The Cunape, a gluten-free Bolivian cheese bread, is a great choice for an appetizer. Both the piña colada and the jalapeño cilantro salad dressings are delicious. The lemonade is mind-blowing.
Arugula Deli is a great choice if you’re wanting to try something different, fresh, and local. Go check it out!