Alex Atala is on fire. The Brazilian chef is the subject of a recent interview with Allan Jenkins from The Guardian. Jenkins traveled to the heart of the Amazon to chat with Atala about his motivations, the food of his homeland, why ants taste good and what makes him one of the world's 50 best chefs. Below you'll find top quotes from Atala's fascinating interview. You can read the full interview here.
On coming to Europe in 1989:
"I had never tasted salmon. Truffles, foie gras, caviar, I didn't like. It was the same emotion as coming as a kid to Amazonas to fish and hunt with my grandfather and father. I didn't enjoy some of the flavours and textures. They were just too strange.
On working in kitchens in France and Belgium:
"I couldn't cook French food as well as a French chef, or Italian like an Italian cook. But I also came to understand none of them could cook Brazilian food as well as me."
On what it means to be a good chef:
"The difference between being good, very good and exceptional as a cook is in having the flavours in your memory.''
What Brazil tastes like:
"If I tell you mozzarella tastes of Italy and miso speaks of Japan, then tucupi [fermented manioc juice] and ants are the taste of Brazil."
On the flavor of ants:
"Ants don't taste like lemon grass and ginger. Lemon grass and ginger taste like ants!"
On his ambitions for Instituto ATÁ:
"ATÁ is not an institute for chefs or for recipes or for food or for foodies. This is an institute for change... we can be an important support, for local culture, for social benefits, for economic benefits, not only money. We don't change lives, we change communities."
His recipe for pineapple with ants:
"Take 1 pineapple and 4 saúva ants; place a piece of pineapple on top of a serving dish and top with an ant. Serve immediately."
''I am famous in my little food world, one of the top 50 chefs, but I don't want to look back in 10 years and think that I didn't use my voice."