Alex Atala: a chef must, first of all, make people eat well
We spoke to the most famous chef of Brazil and he told us how he sees the cuisine of Brazil today, what he thinks of ethics, his success, and the dreams he holds.
14 February 2022
Brazil, its gastronomic present and future
Brazilian cuisine is growing rapidly today. The young generation of cooks helps a lot in this movement, which, for example, did not exist 20 years ago. Then, before here we did much more French and Italian cuisine and today we pay more attention to our cuisine, from Brazil. As well, the strong interest of people looking for good, healthy, and local products also favored this growth.
I am optimistic for the future of our cuisine: we have many young chefs who will be able to lead the country and we also have many good producers. For me, the best of today's chefs is Manuela Buffara.
Can our cuisine become the new global trend? It would be a dream but I think it still takes a long time for that.
If we think a little - there are few Brazilian restaurants in the world. Why? Because even in Brazil it is not easy to find good quality ingredients to make top-level cuisine. You can only find good products from farmers. However, if they were in a larger distribution, such as supermarkets, for example, I am convinced that people would take them because now they understand more and more. I also do not exclude that I would like people to buy more from the farmers, because in this way they can survive and thus would help the economy.
The nature that surrounds us
Nature could survive without a human being. But human beings without nature - never. However, I don't want to paint a human being as a bad character. At the same time, nature near big cities is already accustomed to the human presence, as a consequence, it continually needs it.
To have good produce, we must make sure that the surroundings are fertile and favor the possibility of growing a good product. I would say that the gastronomy and us chefs could be a good hand of help in spreading these ideas.
Chefs of the new generation
My point of view is that - the first thing a chef has to do is prepare delicious food. Then, after years of work, with experience and maturity, you can go and try to raise your voice with social, environmental problems. It is extremely important - to speak up, but, first of all, every chef must prepare a portion of good food.
Chefs are always one step forward - towards a more responsible, more ethical future, at least look at how they choose their suppliers. Chefs often commit to socially important things precisely because they are always grounded - they meet people, suppliers, talk to them, and know their problems.
Emerging today -easier, but staying on the "wave" is not
I think becoming famous and being recognized today is a lot easier than before. Today we have a lot more possibilities that help us, let's just look at social networks. Despite that, I admit that today we live in a world full of anxiety about having everything ready, everything immediately, sometimes too fast. Chefs can earn fame in a moment and also lose it with the same speed. 20-30 years ago there were not many famous chefs in the world, but they remained "on the wave" for longer. Today there are more chefs present but their professional life is much shorter. They disappear not because they are not talented or something, but because today we live in a moment in history that makes everything fast, always requires the news, and makes you doubt everything as if it is uncertain.
Expectations from the chefs
Before expecting ethical involvement from a chef we must remember that we are cooks and we prepare food. This is our first obligation and duty. First, you have to wait for good food and only then other things. We are cooks and we must cook, first of all.
Can a cook save the world?
A chef alone cannot do this. All human beings put together can do it, yes. A strong leader is needed to lead everyone. But we chefs can inspire to change, we can give the input.
The world of gastronomy can and should have a major impact on society.
I have said many times in my life that the strongest thing we have in the world is not social media, it is not the Internet, it is always food.
Ethics that we lack
Ethics is something that is missing everywhere, in any part of our life. In politics, in personal relationships, in the kitchens of the restaurants ... chefs alone cannot do everything, but if they are helped by other categories, if they can collaborate, for example, at least with agro-industry, a lot can be changed.
The chefs are already sending out many messages, but unity of commitment in this matter is still lacking.
The character of Alex Atala
I tell you honestly: my character is my fortune and misfortune at the same time. Believe me, it is.
You asked me what qualities of my character gave me the possibility to get to where I am today and I tell you that it is my depth, but it is a typical Brazilian thing, as I see it. It is part of our character. Then, I would say my persistence in research, my desire to discover Brazil and its cuisine, its flavors.
Dream of Alex Atala
Bringing Brazilian cuisine to the world as best you can. Give space and help to the young cooks of my country. Making the world know about our products. All this would be great to do, but the biggest dream is to preserve the Amazon and the Brazilian natural resources, also thanks to the people who will be interested in our country.
If I could go back in time, to change something already done, I would change only one thing - I would be calmer, more serene, I would say to myself that you have to know how to wait.
If I had to repeat the path I have made yet again, I would do it again a thousand, two thousand, and three thousand times. I am happy with what I have lived, what I have learned, I am grateful even for the most tiring and darkest moments. It was a beautiful day and it's not over yet.
How Alex Atala would change the world
If I could change something in the world I would like people to get even closer to nature. To make them appreciate it more. I would like to give the bases of the knowledge of nature, of the produce. Who could recognize an orange tree without the fruit? Few. In my opinion, the last three generations have lost a layer of culture and knowledge that must be the basis - of what surrounds us and feeds us.
Today, as I feel it, we have the mission to fill that void and revive culture and knowledge.