“Cooking is the new football,” says Brazilian chef Edson Leite of food’s power to enrich the lives of Brazil’s disenfranchised and give them a way out of the favelas.
In the ‘periphery’ of São Paulo, Edson Leite is rescuing the flavours of the favelas and training hundreds of young Brazilians to spread the word of a cuisine that is only beginning to find itself.
“There’s Italian, French, Japanese gastronomy, so why not the periphery too?” says Leite. Indeed, the chef himself experienced the hardship of growing up in the favelas before he found his vocation, selling everything he owned in order to travel abroad and learn to cook.
Now Leite claims his organisation, a gastronomy school called ‘Periphery Gastronomy’. Much is written about South America’s thriving gastronomy scene and chefs venture into the Amazon, or high into the Andes in order to catalogue indigenous ingredients and techniques, but for Leite, the favelas represent a wealth of undiscovered knowledge waiting to be tapped.
Leite was lucky enough to attend a school outside the favelas which gave him a different perspective. “When you’re in a different place than where you live you see that things are different,” he tells Chinese news site CTGN.
Leite says he doesn’t have a beautiful story, that his mother or grandmother was a great cook, but rather, for him, cooking was a way to survive. A new cuisine can bring a sense of purpose to young people struggling for a way to succeed in the favelas. 'Periphery Cuisine' is their chance.