Taioba, cheirão-do-mato (“bush´s smell”), ibisco, limão caiçara (“coast lemon”), maria-sem-vergonha (“Dare Mary”). Plants practically unknown to most people are used with mastery by chef Eudes Assis. It is the caiçara cuisine, which seeks to enhance the typically local ingredients, using refined cooking techniques.
Caiçara is the name of the people who live at Brazilian coast, preserving their cultural roots. They are the result of the cultural miscegenation of indians, black and white people.
Chef Eudes tell about the advantages of using typical Atlantic Rain Forest vegetables and fish and seafood species from this part of the Brazilian coast.
Eudes highlights the properties of the so-called PANCs (Non-Conventional Food Plants), plant species that go unnoticed, but which have intense flavors and great nutritional value.
He demonstrated in practice. He takes cooked jackfruit seeds, laminates them and roasts them with olive oil: the “caiçara almond” was ready. It also prepares a pesto sauce with the leaf of the taioba, a kind of relative of the cabbage-butter, typical of the Atlantic Forest. Makes clove lemon mousse with jaboticaba syrup in cachaça…
Eudes’ enthusiasm for caiçara cuisine comes from his life story. The youngest of 14 siblings, he had a difficult childhood, which forced him to start working at the age of 13, to reinforce the family budget.
“I was raised in Toque Toque Grande, on the North Coast of São Paulo State. He ate fish with bananas, taioba, PANCs (Non-Conventional Food Plants). I was raised like that. He lived in a banana plantation, he didn’t have a refrigerator. So my mom kept the meat in the fat so it wouldn’t spoil. She hardly knew it, but it is an ancient French technique of preserving food ”, he recalls.
He was a helper and shortly afterwards he was already a cook. When he was 17, Luciano Bosegguia, chef at the renowned restaurant Fasano, went to the North Coast and Eudes got a job as a kitchen assistant. “So I asked him to do an internship at Fasano and I did it. I had never been to São Paulo in my life, the first time was to do an internship in one of the best restaurants in the country ”, he reports.
The horizons started to widen. Eudes saw the opportunity and went deep. He took the renowned gastronomy course at Senac, in Águas de São Pedro, and several other courses. Then, he worked in important restaurants in the North Coast, such as Manacá and Frei Jorge.
At that time, there was a desire (and, why not say, a need) to travel, to get to know the gastronomy of other countries. “I collected money, bought a ticket and in 2002 I went to Europe”.
He took two courses at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu (the most respected gastronomy school in the world, in France), interned at restaurants in Lyon, and took a course at El Bulli, the extraordinary experimental restaurant of the Spanish Ferran Adrià, elected the best chef in the world several times.
The gastronomic knowledge was increasing, but there was an episode that changed everything: “In Europe, I met with friends and we were cooking, eating and drinking a lot. When everyone was drunk, they started to fight, almost leaving the arm. Each defending an ingredient or dish from his country of origin. So, I thought: when I get back, I’m going to make a restaurant with caiçara cuisine ”, he recalls.
At that time, Eudes saw an ad in the newspaper, stating that he had a yacht in need of a cook. “He was in Monaco, so I went there to fight for the place. There were a lot of chefs, older than me, who also wanted to. Luckily for me, the owner of the boat was Brazilian and I got the job. I spent five years traveling, I visited 26 countries ”.
These trips have further strengthened the conviction that it is necessary to cook with local ingredients. “In the Caribbean, it was Creole food. There was no pizza, no hamburger ”.
The decisive factor for definitively returning to Brazil was the birth of his son. She returned and accepted an invitation from a friend to open a restaurant. The only requirement: “only if you are from caiçara cuisine”.
And that’s what happened. He began to serve delicacies such as Pescada cambucu on a banana crust with grilled pupunha, tapioca ice cream and taioba cake. The performance earned him the awards for Best Seafood Restaurant, from Veja SP magazine and Chef Revelation, from Prazeres da Mesa magazine.
“The key is to value the local ingredients: the seasonal fish, taioba, yam, the PANCs, and use them with technique. I cook differently from my mother. It is knowing how to choose the right species of fish according to the type of preparation, the exact time to put the tomato so that it does not become soft… ”, he says.
“Every chef must cook well. Cooking right takes work. You have to be rigorous in the application of the technique and the amount of ingredients: if the recipe calls for 240 grams, it is 240 grams, it cannot be 250 or 200 grams, much less by eye ”, he warns.
Eudes says that, in addition, the gastronomy professional has to be “attuned”, concerned with the social, the local economy where he lives, with sustainability. ”I cook with corvina, sororoca, hake, the fish that the sea gives me from the. Good fish is fresh fish. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who prefer this pango fish or sea bass, but this has a very high environmental cost. The cool thing is to go and buy from the fisherman ”.
In fact, Eudes Assis’ social responsibility goes beyond the kitchen. He is an enthusiast of the Buscapé project, an initiative of the Military Police that offers various artistic and sports activities for underprivileged children. In addition to teaching classes himself, Eudes brings important colleagues to participate, such as chef Alex Atala.
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