João has an interesting life story, from Brazil to Portugal, that provides fuel and inspiration for his love of cooking. Learn about his favorite types of food and how food has become a source of inspiration in his life below!
What is your favourite childhood memory of food?
I was born in Belém do Pará, a city in the Amazon that is bathed by rivers and the sea. So I’ve always had a very strong relationship with everything that comes from the water. When I was 8 years old, I used to go to the fresh fish fair with my grandfather and mother. I remember seeing the fish gills move, and the river shrimp jumping alive on the board. My grandfather cooked divinely and the roasted fish wrapped in a banana leaf is something that makes me salivate. It was all very simple, but very tasty. I have never been able to repeat this experience in a restaurant.
What flavours take you back to that childhood memory?
Every place and city I visit I always go to the public market, especially if I’m with someone who already knows the city. It makes me relive everything I lived with my grandmother and mother. The native cuisine of home pots, homemade food is what I love. Discover new recipes that dig deep into family traditions. At the fairs it is the first step to get to know these people, who sell and buy food in the cities. It is there that I talk to the ladies of the cities and discover new ways of cooking, new recipes, almost all of which are not in books. In some cases I’m lucky enough to be invited to eat these ladies’ food in their homes, so I go back to childhood.
What inspired your love of food?
Food is something maternal, it’s what feeds you and gives you energy, vital elements for survival, but it’s also love. It’s a declaration of affection, it’s a celebration of life. And in some cases the celebration of a transition or end. Food is never revenge or something bad. This kitchen made of people willing to celebrate is the kitchen I love. Where those who cook strive to do their best. Where the greatest reward is to see the other happy with what you did. It’s a very big energy delivery. It is love in one of its most sublime forms.
What do you love most about hosting guests?
I love meeting people, of the most diverse types and forms. I’m interested in getting to know new experiences. It’s like reading an unpublished book. It’s feeling emotions that my reality will never give me. It is the celebration of human existence. I understand that some people are more reserved. I am happier meeting people, exchanging experiences, maturing with new perspectives and even new work connections. It is to make the horizon longer, understandable and possibly also more beautiful.
What new flavours or cuisines are you hoping to try this year?
I love home cooking, I hope to be able to learn more about the cuisine of the interior of Portugal, and Galicia, and discover new recipes that are not in books or on YouTube channels, and thus be able to make my own versions of what I knew and things that I tasted.
Where in the world have you tasted the best food?
It’s very parochial to say, but it’s undoubtedly Belém do Pará in the Amazon. It is a city that was chosen as the city of creative gastronomy by UNESCO. There I learned that time is the master of everything, you can’t make good food in a hurry. That the local ingredient is the best secret and that a recipe is not an immutable law. The cuisine may be traditional but it is also changeable. It’s individual, It’s an identity, it’s your answer to life.
What ingredient would you take with you to a deserted island?
Cassava, so I could, in addition to planting (something I’ve done many times) with the root, I could make farofa, puree, Tucupí (liquid taken from the root, perfect for broths), with the leaf I could make maniçoba (an Amazonian feijoada) and with the stem could replant.
How has the social climate of the past two years affected you professionally?
Totally. I changed countries, continents and hemispheres. I arrived in Portugal to study and build a new network of friendship and work. It was almost complete two years with this plan stalling. I did not give up. Today I have new friends who are like family. I’m finishing my master’s degree and with plans to open my own business. So as in Amazonian cuisine, Time is the Lord of All.