avenida Nossa senhora do Loreto, 1100
Brazil is experiencing a very special time. Many talented chefs are researching native ingredients, looking for sustainable alternatives in their kitchens, and rediscovering their own culinary identity. The ‘New Brazilian Cuisine’ is reshaping the gastro-landscape of the country, and promising to get international recognition with its vibrant and original concept! This culinary movement was initiated in the1970s by the great chef from the Amazon, Paulo Martins, who died last year. Two French chefs, Claude Troisgros and Laurent Suaudeau, who fell in love with Brazil in the 1980s have begun to incorporate indigenous produce into their classic cuisine, opening the doors for many other chefs, including Alex Atala, for developing an authentic haute cuisine with a Brazilian identity.
However, one particular restaurant outside the chic urban area of the metropolis is now the highlight of the gastro-scene in Sao Paulo, the gastronomic capital of Brazil. It – Mocotó - is one of the restaurants most praised by international food critics, chefs and food lovers. This is not just a restaurant serving Brazilian food. It is a real Brazilian restaurant, in which the guests have a unique opportunity to experience Brazilian hospitality, exquisite food and cocktails in a casual and warm atmosphere.
Democratic gastronomy is the hidden subtitle of Mocotó. There are no reservations, and it is affordable to all pockets. The workers and businessmen in suits share the space at the bar, or wait for a table with no VIP treatment. There are no tablecloths, no fine cutlery and no designer plates…
The food satisfies both a farmer and a gourmet, and has proved that it is possible for a restaurant to please all types of guest. The secret of Mocotó’s success lies behind the stove! Rodrigo Oliveira, son of “Seu José”, is the protagonist of the Mocotó story! Or, to be fair, the protagonist of the second phase of the tale!
It all began with his father, José Oliveira de Almeida…
Born in a small village in the backland (sertão) of Pernambuco, he arrived in São Paulo with nothing but his clothes, and after many years of hard work in factories, he decided in 1973 to open a small bar with his brother. A year later he went on his own, opening a small bar which became famous with his Calf-foot jelly soup (similar to Ox hoof), called in Brazil ‘Caldo de Mocotó’. People used to queue in front of the small bar only for a cup of the delicacy! In 1979 he decided to open a bigger place in front of the bar, which became the actual restaurant.
In 2004, his son, Rodrigo, at that time an Environmental Engineering student, began a new phase at “Seu José’s Bar”. Rodrigo had intended to have an academic future but a hidden passion for gastronomy became more important, and he decided to embrace the family business, much against his father’s will. From that point on, Rodrigo Oliveira turned the place into the most emblematic Brazilian restaurant in the country, and at the same time helped the city of São Paulo to heal the wounds caused by the discrimination against the food of workers from the northeastern regions, labeled up till then as food for the poor.
Rodrigo has also a special passion for the Brazilian spirit, cachaça, and Mocotó is called Restaurant and ‘Cachaçaria’ because of the extensive collection of the sugar cane spirit. The chef has travelled 30,000km around the country to find small artisans, and his cachaça menu now is unique, with almost 400 references!
The food at Mocotó represents comfort, and expresses identity and pride of a Brazilian region that lives with extreme heat and monsoons, but is rich in its simplicity and warm-hearted people. Mocotó shows that it is possible to stage an affordable and democratic gastronomy, and that ‘fine-simple food is not a contradictory concept! At Mocotó, ‘poor’ meat cuts are elevated to a high status, and previously forgotten vegetables are prepared to perfection, as if they were a rare asparagus. Honest, simple and fabulous food, cocktails made with fresh fruit from the tropics, the best cachaças, and a chef who is always in the kitchen and lives what he preaches – is this the beginning of a new food revolution?
Half Italian, half Brazilian, she works both as chefs and as food writer. Among all the thing she does, she's author of the World’s 50 Best blog
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Alex Atala, 54, on stage at MesaSP in Brazil. The chef and owner of restaurant DOM in São Paulo will return on the 28th of January for a lesson in Milan 10 years after the last time, and the evening before he will cook with Mauricio Zillo at Identità Golose Milano
The party at the press conference, earlier this week, on day 1 of Identità Golose Milano, the first International Hub of Gastronomy, a great showcase overlooking the world from Via Romagnosi 3, in the centre of Milan (pictures from Sonia Santagostino). For reservations: identitagolosemilano.com/prenotazioni