Posted on December 10 2013
Chef Alex Atala is a recent discovery for me and boy do I feel silly. He is pretty cool. He uses modern European and Japanese techniques but with local indigenous ingredients, mostly from the Amazon. San Francisco is a foodie magnet for many reasons and I consider Omnivore Books one of the city's gems. Besides great books they also coordinate book signings and dinners; it was through their newsletter that I found out about the dinner at Camino Restaurant in Oakland with book signing by Chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. in Sao Paulo. My plans where already under way to move to Brazil and I wanted to learn a little more about anything Brazilian.
The same day of the dinner I was arriving to Oakland from Mexico City and arrived an hour late. My seat was open and waiting for me was a menu, place card, and glass of wine.
The menu was selected from his book and prepared by Chef Moore of Camino Restaurant and his staff. Here he is preparing the "Oakland Galinhada" aka chicken, burnt rice, fresh shell beans, grilled chicories and pickled chiles.
Chef Atala gave a great talk on his approach to food and among his many wise words, "vegetarians are killing the Amazon." That blew my mind. Although there are many reasons one might become a vegetarian there is large group that does so to protect animals and this was a slow slap in the face. He brings up a good point; eat local chickens raised by Señor Farmer down the street and have some local known impact or eat anything that contains soybeans and contribute to hundreds of acres of the Amazon being destroyed.
I went with the expectation of getting a glance at Chef Atala and left with more than I could have imagined. After a conversation with Chef Atala about cacao and chocolate he invited me to visit the island in the Amazon where he gets his cacao. He also introduced me to Dominique Crenn which introduced me to her pastry chef Juan Contreras who has become my good friend. And if that wasn't enough I also got to squish next to Daniel Patterson of Coi. Thanks Omnivore Books for making dreams happen.