It is thanks to us, the Brazilian people - children of European, African, Asian immigrants mixed with indigenous blood in our veins - that this country is such a colourful, multicultural, and exciting place to live – for reasons that go beyond our carnivals, samba music or football. It is these kinds of exported images that have given this country – the largest in South America – the reputation of being a perfect destination for exotic vacations. But Brazil is becoming a successful nation, without the stigma of being a third world country, and has changed the course of its history in the last few years. And national cuisine has been a part of this transformation.
Every October, the gourmet magazine, Prazeres da Mesa, and the Institute of Education, SENAC, put on the giant culinary event Semana Mesa SP in the gastronomic capital city of Brazil. In 2011, Semana Mesa SP decided to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy, and to celebrate the strong cultural and culinary bonds between Italy and Brazil.
The event was divided into four parts: Mesa Tendências, the international chef congress; Prazeres da Mesa ao Vivo, the "non-stop" cooking and tasting show; the Charity Dinner, where Brazilian and international guest chefs cooked together for a chosen cause, and Mesa no Cinema, a series of events with food and cinema sessions.
In addition, extra dinners were hosted in restaurants, where a Brazilian chef cooked “four hands” together with an Italian chef. The duo of Helena Rizzo and Moreno Cedroni caused particular excitement among foodies!
Gualtiero Marchesi sent a video with a message to open the event, and Aimo Moroni was present, representing the evolution of Italian cuisine. From Italy, Massimo Bottura, Ernesto and Alfonso Iaccarino, Gennaro Esposito, Andrea Berton, Dario Cecchini, Paolo Lopriore, Davide Scabin, Enrico Cerea, Valeria Piccini, Pino Cuttaia, Luca Montersino, Luca Gardini and Davide Oldani, presented their work, and cooked together with Brazilian chefs, learned about native products, tasted the famous caipirinhas and even ate ants from the Amazon.
The international guests and chefs experienced the flavours of Brazil with visits to street markets, tastings of classic Brazilian dishes, such as feijoada, tapioca, moquecas and churrascos, and many of them also visited the famous restaurants Mani, Mocotó, Kinoshita, D.O.M., Dalva e Dito, Tordesilhas, Brasil a Gosto and Churrasco houses, the Brazilian barbecue restaurants.
And what about Brazilian culinary talents? They were the hosts of the event, and shone in Semana Mesa with New Brazilian Cuisine. Their love for their homeland, their extensive knowledge of native produce, and their commitment to environmental and social issues were evident during their presentations.
The chocolatier, Samantha Aquim, for example, works closely with cocoa bean producers in Ilheus to try to rescue the old traditions of chocolate making.
Rodrigo Oliveira is aiming for a democratic gastronomy, bringing back to Brazilian tables comfort food from the northeast. His restaurant, Mocotó is considered to be the most exciting place to eat in the country with exquisite food and drinks, but it takes no reservations, it has affordable prices and workers wait at the queue for a table together with millionaires. Through S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Brazilian cuisine came out of anonymity with Alex Atala, chef-patron of D.O.M. restaurant, now in the 7th position. Another two Brazilian restaurants are in the top 100 list this year too – Maní, with chefs Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo, and the Italian restaurant Fasano, with chef Salvatore Loi.
However, there are other stars in the Brazilian gastronomic landscape still fairly unknown in Europe - which FDL will introduce to you before long. On the stage of Semana Mesa this year were Ana Luíza Trajano, from Brasil a Gosto, Carla Pernambuco, from Carlota, Claude Troisgros (the most Brazilian French-chef in the world!), from Olympe, Bella Masano, Faustino Paiva, Samantha Aquim, Rodrigo Oliveira and Julian Mercier, from restaurant Mocotó, and many others.