One of the most admired chefs in the world, Alex Atala managed to put his country (Brazil) on the map of world cuisine, attracting the attention of cooks and food professionals to the work he does with indigenous Brazilian ingredients.
Atala was born in 1968 in the region of São Paulo, one of the most important cities in Latin America due to its gastronomic wealth. Although his first interest was music - he was a DJ for a long time, playing in the city’s clubs - it was during a trip to Europe that he had his first contact with the professional kitchen. He then decided to embrace it, by graduating in the School of Hotel Management in Namur, Belgium. In France, Atala worked in the restaurant Jean Pierre Bruneau and interned at the renowned Hotel de la Côte D'Or. He then went on to new challenges in kitchens in Montpellier and Milan, learning French and Italian culinary techniques.
Back to Brazil, he opened his first restaurant, a more casual place where he was already beginning to use native ingredients. But it was only in 1999 that he opened D.O.M., his most awarded restaurant, which raised him to the high plateau of the great chefs in the world. D.O.M. stands for Deo Optimo Maximo, which could be translated as 'To God, The Good, The Great'.
The international interest in Atala and his restaurant started after a presentation the chef made at the Madrid Fusion conference in 2005, where he extolled the Amazonic terroir, attracting the attention of other chefs present, leading Ferran Adrià to take the stage and join him.
In his kitchen, Atala focuses on native, unexplored Brazilian ingredients, presented in signature recipes such as pineapple with ants, cassava mille-fouille, palm heart fetuccine. His work has become known for bringing a contemporary Brazilian cuisine with mainly Amazonian ingredients in dishes like the Pirarucu fish with açaí berry. As a young man, his parents took him and his siblings on trips all around Brazil, including the Amazonas, where he first fell in love with the jungle and its complexity.
His vision of Brazilian cuisine has led him to great recognition, with many accolades in Brazil and abroad. D.O.M. was the first restaurant in the country to be recognized with two Michelin stars and the one that always reached the highest position in the list of 50 Best in both Latin America and the World list. Its best position (6th) was in 2013, the same year in which Atala was recognized as one of the 100 more influential personalities by Time magazine. His establishment holds the title of "Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In South America."
Ten years after the opening of D.O.M., Atala inaugurated Dalva and Dito, already foreseeing a more casual kitchen, which was beginning to attract the interest of other chefs. The focus of the restaurant is to serve hearty and comfort dishes with the same purpose of highlighting the Brazilian ingredients and rescuing popular dishes. In 2015, he launched the high-end catering service 7 Gastronomia.
More recently, he has expanded his operations in São Paulo with Açougue Central, a steakhouse focused on less conventional cuts of meat (currently closed) and Bio, opened in 2017, which philosophy is to use the whole ingredient, from seeds to bark.
To further deepen the knowledge regarding food, he founded ATÁ Institute in 2013 in partnership with a multidisciplinary team. The main proposal is to strengthen the food production chain, valuing small producers throughout the country, such as the Baniwa pepper, grown by Brazilian Baniwa Indigenous people in the Amazon. In 2021, Atala is set to embrace his new goal: D.O.M. Hotel will be installed in the Jardins, a famous neighborhood in São Paulo, and will extend the hospitality of the restaurant room to the hotel rooms.