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Taste Brazil | The Chef’s Story: Chef Rodrigo Oliveira
Sobremesa – “An elusive feeling of relaxation and pleasure after sharing a meal with friends, family or a potential love interest, when words flow, laughter reigns, and memories are made.”
Tell me, how do you act around a chef whom you are meeting for the first time, but whose wise words and rise-to-fame story you have memorised like the alphabet because you are such a great fan of his? Flailing with excitement, we literally skipped into Mocotó, a casual restaurant in the north of São Paulo, a 50-min car ride from where we were. Out came Chef Rodrigo Oliveira, towering above everybody else with his lanky frame. One of the most celebrated young chefs in Brazil, his accolades can be intimidating to any fledgling restaurateur or chef. But for all the success he has today, you will find no airs, just humility and passion.
At Mocotó, ingredients are pared down to the basics, but blended with the intense flavours of Brazilian cooking and contemporary concepts. Tradition in evolution is innovation, and his deft updating of time-honoured recipes has proven to be a roaring hit. We particularly love his traditional lamb stew, the Atolado de bode, a style from north-east Brazil where his father was from. The greatness in his food lies in his ability to stay true to his roots, yet bringing a masterful balance of surprise and tradition that draws food-lovers to the lesser known cuisine of the north-east.
I showed him the ingredients I brought over from Singapore – bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), petai, tempeh and my signature ginger scallion and chilli sauces. As his team gathered to test these ingredients, we also learned about local Amazonian products and their regional influences. Over dishes and pots of Mocotó’s offerings, we spent a languid afternoon centred around food. We are inspired by his use of cassava in the dishes, and can’t wait to try it back in Singapore!
Imagine my delight when I realised we share the same love for ‘one-pot’ food! And he emphasised the beauty of eating as a social act that helps to cement a connection of shared moments spent around the table. Indeed, there is so much more joy in digging into big pots and ladling the goodness on plates around the table, than to work on an elaborate individual dish placed in front of you that isn’t designed for sharing. Nothing against fine dining, but simplicity is luxurious, as I have come to realise from his words.
When Chef Rodrigo speaks, you can’t help but be inspired and feel all fuzzed up inside. He’s a firm believer that food is a common language that connects people and creates an inclusive environment that sets prejudice aside. This is a chef who does away with mise en place. “Too much work,” he said. No pretentious, fancy cook- ing, just food that evokes memories and connects people.
On the ride back from Mocotó, my heart was stirred by my exchange with Chef Rodrigo. I think about how recipes are gradually altered over time to accommodate new trends, changing practices, seasonal ingredients, new technology and even emerging cooking utensils of the modern world. But why we cook shouldn’t change.
We cook to preserve time and traditions. We cook to preserve a link with where we came from, and our sense of identity. We cook because food is the language everyone speaks. When food is cooked with love and passion, people are happy eating it. That same food served again in future is likely to draw up that same feeling of joy, and that’s why we cook. For others. For that connection that goes beyond boundaries.
Today, share a meal with someone. Share memories at the table. Share your thoughts far beyond the taste on your plate. Let your love for others be the ingredient that makes up the meal of their lifetime. Thank you Chef Rodrigo for this reminder.
CHEF RODRIGO OLIVEIRA
“COMFORT FOOD IS SUBJECTIVE. IT’S ABOUT SMELLS, SIGHTS AND TASTES. RECIPES THAT HIT THE SOFT, WARM, FUZZY SPOT, EVOKING MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD, TRAVELS, EMOTIONS. THIS WARM FUZZY FEELING CREATES A WELL-STOCKED LARDER OF POSITIVE EMOTIONS.”
“FOOD FORMS A NARRATIVE OF OUR LIVES. WE ARE NOT SO MUCH WHAT WE EAT, BUT WHAT WE REMEMBER WE HAVE EATEN.”
“COOK WITH PASSION. FOOD WILL TASTE BETTER.”
Read more on SouperChef Anna’s travel to Brazil on our e-magazine. Download Here.
* This Souper Inspirations trip to Brazil is sponsored by our kind partners, Sadia Singapore, BRF and SATS-BRF (distributor of Sadia in Singapore). All opinions and photos are as always, ours.