Yesterday, acclaimed Brazilian chef Alex Atala took to the stage at The Design Indaba as a ‘Food Design’ speaker. He seduced the packed room with his passion for Brazil, indigenous ingredients and food philosophy. Some out-takes are:
“Old ideas can be more clever and modern than new ideas. New ideas tend to be driven by innovation, think of the phone to the smart phone.”
“What is creativity for a chef? It’s not doing something that’s not been done. It’s doing something surprising.”
“The best way to be global is to be local.”
At one point Margot Janse joined him on stage, so we asked her a few questions.
What did you do on stage?
Nothing! [laughs]. He said I was his translator, but I didn’t need to translate anything. My Portuguese is great. [laughs again].
How would you describe his cooking style?
He’s my hero, my inspiration. I really appreciate that he so respects his country and is proud of Brazil. He realises he has a responsibility to educate people about the amazing produce and culture. In his speech he spoke about reinventing and making food a surprise; you’re getting something that’s already done, but in a new way—and he shows respect to where it’s come from.
His food is not overdone, and he honours Brazil in such a deep way.
He’s coming to eat at The Tasting Room tonight?
Yes, and everybody is asking me what I’m going to give him. Well, what I usually do! But I’ll start off with suurvygies. I’ve visited his restaurant, D.O.M many times and I’ve given him baobab and buchu already!
What Brazilian ingredients piqued your interest?
All the strange and unbelievable things from the Amazon; from the wetland plant priprioca which he uses in desserts as you would vanilla, to jambu root which literally tastes electric.