Alex Atala’s D.O.M. Restaurant
For quite a while I had been reading about Alex Atala and how he is considered the best contemporary chef in Brazil. In keeping up with Brazilian media while living in the USA I would always see his restaurant D.O.M. (which stands for Dominus Optimus Maximus) listed as the best restaurant in Brazil. Every year since 2006 D.O.M. was featured in Restaurant Magazine’s list of 50 best restaurants in the world (in 2009 it placed 24th). Having read about the great acclaim that Chef Atala has received I was determined to learn more about his work as soon as we arrived in Brazil.
After arriving in São Paulo I looked for Chef Atala’s books. He has authored three books: “Por uma Gastronomia Brasileira”, “Escoffianas Brasileiras”, and “Com Unhas, Dentes, e Cuca” (the last one co-authored with Carlos Alberto Dória). After looking at the price tag for some of those books I was sure to put them on my Christmas list and hope for the best :-).
The reason why Atala earned his fame is because he innovated Brazilian cuisine by applying standards and methods that he learned in Europe (he has a degree from the Hotel school in Namur Belgium and he also worked for 3-Michelin star chef Jean Pierre Bruneau) to the traditions and ingredients found in our land. By doing so he has created a contemporary Brazilian cuisine, where the main focus is on researching native ingredients and reinterpreting the traditional ways in which they have been prepared. Atala is an advocate for rediscovering traditional uses of Brazilian ingredients as they were prepared by the indigenous peoples or by the early settlers during colonial times. In addition he believes that the vast natural resources we encounter in the depths of the Amazon are sure to yield discoveries of new ingredients. There are also an array of common ingredients that are unknown to the city dweller consumer of Brazil’s southeast region. By bringing these ingredients from more remote areas of Brazil, and by making creative use of such ingredients, he is able to reinterpret traditional dishes from every corner of Brazil. I looked at the menu available at the restaurant’s website, and many of the dishes make use of ingredients that are unknown to me.
Last week, at the end of the talk with Dona Brazi, I waited for an opportunity to speak with Chef Atala (I had read on his interviews that he is a really approachable guy), he was very nice and glad to hear that I am interested in learning. He said he is always accepting interns at D.O.M. and asked me to drop by with a résumé. The next day I went to D.O.M. and Chef Atala introduced me to his prep kitchen chef, Henrique Benedetti, he not only arranged for me to start a five week internship but he also said that Heather would be more than welcome since almost all of the restaurant’s staff is fluent in English. Our first day will be January 4th and needless to say we are both very excited.
The minimalist façade of D.O.M.