IT is fair to say that Abdel Djeebet was destined for life as a restaurateur.
With an uncle who teaches at Spain’s top cookery school, a cousin with a Michelin star and a mother with one of the coast’s longest established cafes, he grew up in a melting pot of flavours and spices.
Yet, at the age of 16 the new owner of exciting Japanese restaurant Tutemaki in San Pedro de Alcantara decided to join the army. Having grown up in Sotogrande he could have easily gone into his family’s various restaurants in Torreguadiaro. “But I was always looking to do my own thing, make money and see the world,” he explains over lunch on the terrace of Tutemaki, which is approaching its first birthday.
“So when my stepfather suggested the army I jumped at the idea.” He has soon enrolled in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, which quickly fast tracked him to do his A-levels at the Army Foundation College in Yorkshire. But that didn’t mean he was in for the easy life.
There were plenty of tough weeks in the Brecon Beacons and wilds of Scotland… ten days of continual rain ‘with no roof over our heads’, forced marches, frostbite, hyperthermia. “It was tough, but I was mentally strong, as well as being fast and versatile, so did pretty well.”
However, at the end of the two year stint he ducked out of enlisting long-term and enrolled on a tourism and management course at Weymouth College in Dorset. This led full circle to jobs in a string of leading hotels in Brussels, Liverpool and finally at Andalucia’s most stylish retreat Finca Cortesin in Casares.
And now, Abdel, 26, is finally back full circle where he was always meant to be, running a restaurant on the Costa del Sol. Joint owner of Tutemaki with Dutch entrepreneur Nawfel, a former mechanic whose Andalucian wife wanted a move back to Spain, he has worked hard to bring in a series of important touches. These include a brand new menu, bamboo fence, Japanese music and an all round new ‘zen feel’. “We invested in a Teppanyaki grill and are also working on making the food more gourmet in style and sourcing the freshest ingredients the region has to offer,” he explains.
This means a lot more than just sushi, with loads of ‘temaki’ handrolls, six in total, which are amazing, as well as the most amazing spicy tuna tartare. “We are buying our own almadraba-caught bluefin tuna from Cadiz, which is sustainable and organic, so we will never run out,” he explains. “This is the tuna that the top restaurants in Japan buy.”
The wagyu beef burger is spectacular and there are some fantastic fresh juices, which are great for the palate and healthy to boot. The taiyaki desserts, which are fish shaped waffles filled with nutella, kinder or white chocolate, are popular with kids. “My uncle, who teaches at Les Roches cookery school in Marbella has been very helpful and I have learnt loads from my mother Laila.
” He grew up with food in his veins, as his mum has always run restaurants as did his other uncles, back in Weymouth, while his cousin Taher Jibet trained with Marco Pierre White at the Michelin-starred Mirabelle, in London, before running his own place in Dorset.