In Fortaleza we had the great pleasure of meeting with Chef José Faustino Paiva. Faustino, as he is known in the industry, is the most celebrated chef of Ceará — not only does he have the highest rated restaurant in the whole northeast region of Brazil but he is also a leader in the Slow Food movement. He is a great supporter of the local sustainable agriculture and seafood industries. Recently he has closed his renowned restaurant Cantinho do Faustino, a humble spot in the bohemian neighborhood of Varjota, for remodeling. His restaurant although humble had great acclaim, having received two stars from the Quatro Rodas guide (Brazil’s version of the Michelin guide). A group of restaurant investors saw his hiatus as a great opportunity; they called Faustino to run a large spot in Beira Mar (the ocean front avenue), thus creating Faustino Fortaleza. This new location is very elegant and caters to the local elite and wealthy visitors. He has already received one star in his new location and people are very eager to the re-opening of his humbler spot in Varjota.
Faustino’s story is a beautiful story of a typical immigrant worker from Ceará who became very successful but retains his humility and simple demeanor. He was born in Reriutaba a very small town in the Sertão region of Ceará. His parents were farmers. When the family could not support itself anymore due to the massive droughts in the region, Faustino left to look for a better life in the big city. He was eighteen years old when he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, planning to work as a street vendor, but fate took him to the famous Hotel Gloria where he found work as a dishwasher. While working mornings he would volunteer at night as an apprentice. Promoted as a cook he went on to work at the Sheraton and Intercontinental Hotels. Home was calling him back though, and he returned to work in Fortaleza as a chef in the Praia Verde and then Othon Palace hotels until he decided to open his own restaurant, Cantinho do Faustino.
At Cantinho do Faustino the business philosophy is one of resourcefulness and creativity. Faustino grew all his herbs and vegetables on an organic garden built right above the restaurant; this not only provides him with the freshest produce but also the garden right above the dining room works as a climate control keeping the temperature cool at all times (Fortaleza is a rather warm city). Anything he can’t produce himself (which is close to nothing) he buys from organic producers. Outside of town he owns a small farm were larger crops can be planted, organically of course, for the restaurant. He recycles materials — all the soap used to wash dishes was made from the leftover cooking fat; all food trimmings are used for compost on Faustino’s crop, and any leftover food is saved to feed his pigs and other small animals. All his employees receive full health benefits, meals, and clean uniforms, without any deductions from their paychecks. The restaurant uses fruits from Faustino’s farm to produce handcrafted liquor to offer as a courtesy digestif to the customers; special bottles (aka the empty bottles that the restaurant would throw away and are sanitized for liquor production instead) are also used for gifts for special clients.
Faustino is also a leader of the Slow Food movement in Brazil. He represented Brazil in the Terra Madre conferences of 2008, and 2006. He will be attending the 2010 conference as well. More recently he attended the Terra Madre Brazil conference in March, where he met with Carlo Petrini to discuss the state of sustainable food production in Brazil. With the Slow Food movement Faustino works as an advocate for the cashew farmers and roasters of Ceará.
I found a recipe that Faustino shared during an interview in 2006. He tells the story for this traditional recipe from his hometown:
“In my village, when a woman becomes pregnant, the husband castrates a chick and feeds him his own testicles. When the woman gives birth the capon is ready to slaughter, with a tender and healthy meat. The reason is that since the capon does not have the hormones found in roosters, the meat is considered healthier.”
New Mother’s Capon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1lb capon meat
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 quart water
- 2 tomatoes, large dice
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup manioc flour
- 2 free range chicken eggs, hard boiled
It is preferable to use a clay pot, if not available just use a heavy bottom pot.
Heat the oil and sweat the garlic, onions, and the bell pepper. Add the capon meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook in its own juice for 20 minutes. Add the water and tomato; let simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the parsley and cilantro.
Remove the broth a separate pan and mix with the manioc flour. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Add the 2 eggs to the pot with the capon meat and cover with the thickened sauce.
Serve with white rice or any garnish of your preference.