D.O.M.Modern Brazilian Gastronomy | 0 Comments
HOW ALEX ALATA AND D.O.M. CHANGED THE HISTORY OF MODERN BRAZILIAN CUISINE
Mention Brazilian gastronomy to anyone who has ever lived or spent time in Brazil recently and the chances are the one name on everyone’s lips will be Alex Atala. When he opened his restaurant D.O.M. in 1999, he made a decision that was to change the history of modern Brazilian cuisine.
Up until then, many restaurants in his home city of Sao Paulo were more French or Italian and impervious to the nation’s indigenous ingredients.
Traditional family dishes were considered too homely to be served on a fine dining basis and restrained to street food. Yet for years in other countries like Spain, Italy and France, classic home cooking had been refined and was being served in top gastronomic restaurants.
Atala wanted to change the way his nation was considered on a plate and believed ingredients like acai, pupunha or cupuacu to be the very essence of Brazil and their uniqueness should be celebrated.
“We needed a pride in our cuisine. The way the Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos was proud of our music” Atala said.
Having trained in Europe, he knew he would never be able to translate French or Italian food, as well as the local chefs he’d worked with, in their home countries. They had too easy access to the quality of ingredients their recipes dictated.
What he did believe was that he could take the tastes and flavours of his own country and bring the very best of Brazilian ingredients to a fine dining restaurant.
In 1999, he opened D.O.M. (from the Latin Deo Optimo Maximo – God is Great and Exceeding – good in his wisdom and exceeding in his kindness) in Sao Paulo, not only to create an exceptional gastronomic experience using local ingredients, but one that captured the flavours, colours, textures and even smells of what it was to eat in Brazil.
In essence, Atala applied European techniques to Brazilian ingredients creating anything up to 20 course tasting menus that included for example- Palm Heart Fettuccine; Pirarucu with Tucupi; and Banana Ravioli with Passion Fruit Sauce and Tangerine Sorbet.
D.O.M was simply what Brazil tasted like.
It soon became the most popular restaurant in the city with food lovers, critics, chefs and a huge celebrity clientele. Back then, the concept of D.O.M. was ahead of its time and its ethos helped clear the way for other restaurants.
D.O.M. was soon to become Brazil’s most famous destination restaurant.
For Atala though, the process of flying Brazil’s culinary flag was more than just constrained within the walls of the restaurant.
Developing menus with a strong presence of native ingredients required time and research. Some of that research had been far-reaching into the Amazon rainforest.
With issues of deforestation and the impact of habitat loss at the fore of his mind, Atala was acutely aware of the fragility of the rainforests eco-system and the tribal lifestyles it supported. He knew if his work into his nation’s culinary heritage was to continue he would need to be sensitive to both the people who inhabited the Amazon and the rainforest itself.
Over the years, with the help of the Social Environmental Institute, Atala has worked meticulously with scientists and anthropologists to discover and classify foods and document new products from the Amazon region, with minimum impact on both forest and people.
Some of this research has included the significant discovery of a new variety of wild palm heart perfectly adapted for farming. In the past, a palm tree was destroyed to harvest its single 700g heart. This new variety is faster growing with five to eight side shoots, meaning that it can be harvested at different times without killing the tree.
Another discovery was priprioca root. He found out it was edible and developed an extract that can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes, a bit like vanilla. With the help of his agricultural contacts and the native families living nearby, Atala has helped create farms that harvest and cultivate priprioca specifically in areas where there used to be deforestation.
He has even taken his Eco Gastronomy one step further, and now owns an area of Amazonia where 30 to 40 families live in peace. His only request is to occasionally and sensitively forage the area, which is rich in local produce, for his research and development work.
Without a doubt, Atala’s unbridled creativity, passion and dogged ambition for Brazilian produce and ingredients, is tempered only by his sensitive, sustainable and intelligent methods in cultivating them.
His ambition now is start to promote Brazilian produce on an international scale, and hopes that given time and the development of sustainable farming strategies, palm hearts and acai berries, become as normal as pasta or blueberries in store cupboards throughout the world.
With the impending FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics almost upon them, the world’s eyes will be fixed on Brazil. Thanks to Alex Atala the nation will have more than its athletic prowess to shout about.
Exclusive since its opening, the restaurant D.O.M. is still faithful to its original ethos and dedication to its guests. Through celebration, special events and tributes it showcases the very best in Brazilian ingredients and modern cooking techniques.
“D.O.M. is still daring in its creations, practicing a conceptual cuisine in flavours, colours, textures and scents” observes Alex Atala.
Such innovations garnered D.O.M. recognition in the British publication “Restaurant Magazine”, in the international awards “S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants”.
About Alex Atala
Creative and passionate, Alex Atala is famous, both at home and abroad, for taking classic Brazilian basics, adding modern techniques and unleashing the gastronomic possibilities using traditional ingredients.
Chef and proprietor of the award-winning D.O.M. restaurant, Atala is the most acclaimed chef in Brazil. In its ten years, D.O.M. has consistently gained awards from local and international gastronomy magazines and publications.
Tireless in his work to promote Brazilian cuisine, Atala regularly participates in international events, teaching and demonstrating at special classes around the globe, e.g. the Alimentaria and Madrid Fusión (Spain), Identitá Golose – Congresso Italiano Di Cucina D’autore (Italy) and Bon Appetit (United States).
The chef shares all these experiences in his books. The list includes “Alex Atala – Poruma Gastronomia Brasileira” (2003, BEI publishing house); “Escoffianas Brasileiras”, written with the journalist Carolina Chagas (2008, Larousse); and “Com Unhas, Dentes e Cuca – Prática Culinária e Papo-Cabeça ao Alcance de Todos”, alongside the sociologist Carlos Alberto Dória (2008, SENAC São Paulo).
His most recent contribution to the world of gastronomy is the restaurant Dalva e Dito, opened in 2009 in São Paulo. With Dalva e Dito, Alex reinforces his belief in Brazilian gastronomy. The menu of the restaurant is 100% local and uses high gastronomy techniques to make traditional Brazilian food even more delicious.