Slurrp Exclusive- Chef Guto Souza On Nuances Of Brazilian Cuisine And His Idea Of Comfort Food
- Ayandrali Dutta
Updated : May 19, 2022 11:05 IST
Chef Guto says Brazil is a lot like India, in that every state and every corner of the country you have different kinds of food.
Internationally-renowned chef of Brazilian origin, who has over three decades of experience, having owned and run six restaurants in five countries around the world,
Chef Guto Souza is currently Executive Chef & Partner, Boteco – Restaurante Brasileiro, a newly opened India's first authentic Brazilian restaurant in Bangalore. The restaurant captures the essence of a Brazilian watering hole, sees everything from quick bites like Coxinhas, a popular street food of lightly spiced chicken golden-fried to perfection; Entradas’ – including favourites like Pão de Queijo – traditional cheese breads, and Linguiça com Mandioca and more. The place sees Guto playing with big, bold and fresh flavours. It’s nothing less than Brazil on a plate.
Chef Guto’s impressive track record includes highly successful restaurants like ‘Fusion Restaurant’ and ‘Go with the Flow’ in Goa (India) for which he won both local and national accolades; ‘La Cacerola’ in Amsterdam (Holland), which was awarded 5 stars by Time Out Amsterdam and ‘Tante Kiki’ in Bruges (Belgium) won the title of ‘Best International Restaurant’ by The Taste of Bruges
In a chit chat with HT Slurrp Chef Guto Souza Executive Chef & Partner, Boteco – Restaurante Brasileiro talks about his favourite Indian street food to his idea of innovation when it comes to food and more
What has been your inspiration to the trade?
My family comes from a farm area – Jataí in Brazil. So I’ve been in close touch with food since I was very young. I grew up watching my mother, who is an excellent cook, create magic in the family kitchen. I spent many of my holidays while growing up on the farm, where I would watch my aunts and grandmom cook all day. I enjoyed setting up the whole table, watching people sit around the table, eating and having a good time. The whole energy around food always inspired me.
I started cooking, from the time I was around 18 years old. I first learnt basic cooking at a place called ‘Goiânia’ along with a cousin of mine. And here that I really begun to enjoy the experience of cooking. I then began to cook for friends, cook at parties, and people would call me to cook at their home too. One day a friend approached me to open my first restaurant with him. So the true inspiration for me is what I saw when I was growing up - what food does to people, the happiness, the conversations that happen over food, how it brings people together. For me it is this!
How would you describe Brazilian cuisine?
Brazilian cuisine is an exuberant mix of native, European and African influences and varies greatly by region, reflecting the country's mix of indigenous and immigrant populations. The most distinctive regional cuisines are from the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia. While Minas Gerais cuisine has a strong Portuguese influence, with pork being the preferred meat; Bahian cuisine has more African delicacies. The Brazilian barbecue churrasco originated in the south of Brazil, with beef being the preferred meat, and strong culinary influences from South American countries such as Uruguay and Argentina. With over 7,000 kms of seacoast skirting the Atlantic Ocean, there is an incredible variety of seafood in their cuisine. While beans and cassava are some common ingredients and accompaniments, freshness of produce is given tremendous importance.
Brazil is a lot like India, in that every state and every corner of the country you have different kinds of food. Brazil’s rich culinary heritage is like India. I always draw parallels between the cuisines of the two countries because I love Indian food, the use of flavours and techniques! You go north of Brazil, like Bahia, you will have the curries, fish, spicy food, you go south of the country, you’ll have the barbeques, you go to my home state, Minas Gerais, we eat a lot of pork and a lot of stews. Every place in Brazil offers a different kind of food. I think it’s so rich in its culinary offering, because Brazilians are not one, but a mix of various races, each of whom have contributed to the country’s food culture and offering.
With the menu at Boteco – Bengaluru’s first authentic Brazilian Restaurant & Bar – we have tried to capture this very spirit with a selection of authentic as well as reimagined dishes. Add to the complex range of food from Brazil, is my creative interpretation of a variety of influences from my travels and culinary experiments.
Talking of Brazilian food what are the two dishes one should never miss while visiting the country?
One must try dish in Brazil is Feijoada. In fact, it is considered the national dish of Brazil and is a must try if visiting the country. If you love pork, then you absolutely must try this particular dish. Even Anthony Bourdain, who was one of the best Chefs ever, used to say that Feijoada was the best dish in the world. Feijoada, pronounced fey-zhoo-ah-dah, was the substantial meal that enslaved people ate to get through their day. It’s ironic therefore that it went on to become Brazil’s national dish. It is typically prepared and served at Saturday lunch and is usually paired with sautéed collard greens, pork rinds, orange slices and rice .
There’s a region called Bahia in Brazil, that perhaps has the richest culinary heritage in the country. My second pick would be any kind of seafood coming from here like the ‘Moqueca ’, ‘Bobó’. It’s a must not miss dish.
And for those of you who cannot visit the country, Boteco serves an excellent feijoada. We also offer our version of Moqueca De Peixe – a spiced fish stew with grilled fish, served with rice. One must visit Boteco, Bengaluru if you want a genuine taste of Brazilian food in India.
India is rich street food, how is the street food scene in Brazilian cuisine?
Brazil has an incredible array of unique street food. You will see people on the streets, barbequing small skewers of meat, chicken, pork. Then there’s ‘Coxinha’, very popular street food. Just like samosas in India, you will see Coxinhas available at every corner street shop. Pastels are yet another popular street food. You have different kinds of fillings in the pastels.
In Brazil we have Feiras – which are open markets and one very famous one in Rio de Janeiro is called Feira de São Cristóvão. You can eat a wide variety of street food here that would just blow your mind. So yes, we too have plenty of street food.
What is your idea of innovation when it comes to food?
I am an old fashioned cook and always prefer cooking in the traditional way. When we talk of innovation, for me it is about flavours. Discovering new flavours, new taste, new ideas to enrich your culinary experience. I came to India exactly for this reason. I always loved Indian food and I was very curious to understand how they work with spices, various condiments and integrate different flavours into any dish. So for me innovation in food is about opening your mind, looking for new things and trying new flavours and then incorporating them in your kitchen. I have at Boteco explored not only the traditional styles of cooking but incorporated in the menu – dishes that I have reimagined based on my travels and culinary experiences in the world and particularly in India.
What is your favourite ingredients to cook with?
It is hard to talk about one ingredient specifically. I love garlic, I love onions, I love spring onions, - these are all basics of Brazilian culinary heritage but if I had to pick one herb and hide it in my pocket and cook with,- it is fresh thyme.
It brings so much flavour to the food and at the same time does not overpower the other flavours of any dish. It would be my favourite ingredient.
What has been your experience with Indian food? Your top three picks?
I came to India to learn how to cook Indian food. I was lucky to meet all the right people at the right juncture. I lived in Goa for 6 years, where I have fantastic friends. They taught me a lot about Indian food. And it really surprised me. Indian food is so full of flavours, filled with different things, and it’s this variety is what really surprised me.
3 picks: Hard to say, but I love Biryani, and I love whatever comes from the tandoor. And last but not the least, is the Samosa. I really love a good samosa. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s close to something in Brazil called ‘Pastel’, - perhaps that’s why I really like it.
What has been your idea of comfort food? What’s your fondest food memory?
Comfort food for me is my mom’s food. She was an excellent cook. Anything that she makes is magical. Whenever I travel back to Brazil, the first thing I do, is I call my mother and ask her to something for me. It makes me very happy and brings back lot of great childhood memories. Our meals in Brazil comprise rice, beans, vegetables, and some form of protein- either fish, pork, or beef.
My fondest food memory is the first time I had suckling pig. I was quite young, but I remember that experience very clearly. My dad is a very good cook as well, but he’s not a natural like my mom. But he had made the full suckling pig on that particular occasion. At first, I was a little concerned when I saw the whole pig on the table, but when I had a bit of that crackling pig, I went like ‘My gosh, what have I been missing all this while.