Chef Mara Salles brings her delicious Brazilian cuisine to Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival this September.

Chef Mara Salles brings her delicious Brazilian cuisine to Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival this September.

As the weeks count down to the  Savour Stratford Perth County 2014 Culinary Festival‘s on September 21st and 22nd, Good Food Revolution will be interviewing many of the Chefs from all over the globe who will be flocking to Stratford to present a wide range of seminars and cooking demonstrations.

One of the highlights of this years program is undoubtedly the presence of acclaimed Brazilian Chef Mara Salles, who’ll be making her first visit to Stratford for the festival. Although Brazilian cuisine is not something that we see too much of in Canada right now, it is pegged by many to be the next big thing, with Brazilan Chefs being the talk of the town in many of the world’s culinary capitals.

In anticipation of her upcoming presentation, we asked Chef Salles a few questions about herself and Brazilian cuisine in general.

Good Food Revolution: Is this your first visit to Stratford?

Mara Salles: Yes it is my first time at the event. Although Cooks are always pretty busy, I was easily convinced to accept the invitation, especially for the opportunity to be meet with local producers and enjoy Stratford. From the pictures I saw online it looks like the perfect place to host such an event.

GFR: And what will you be doing at Savour Stratford this year?

MS: I’ll be introducing the audience to one of Brazil’s principal ingredients: mandioca (manioc) and its important sub-products. I’ll be preparing one recipe with tapioca and one with manioc flour mixed with some local Canadian ingredients, and preparing one of the most popular Brazilan foods: farofa.

It is impossible today to make a good food without regard for man and his environment. The exchange with celebrated chefs of various parts of the planet, the discovery of new ingredients, different methods of preparation, and food production are rich human exchanges that I can bring with me.

The theme of the event is very good, very modern “Globally inspired, locally grown…” –  the particular becoming universal. I am looking forward to making dishes with local ingredients, which is why I’ll be deciding which dishes to make after visiting the market (I’ve been told it’s beautiful). I want to mix Brazilian  ingredients with some Canadian, using techniques  that are very Brazilian, I hope it works!

GFR: You take a great interest in the role of Umami in the enjoyment of food? For those unfamiliar with Umami, how would you explain it?

MS: Umami in Japanese means delicious. For us Brazilians, food has to be always delicious. I and most of people in Brasil, use to cook intuitively  exploring ingredients with natural glutamate. Most of our regional dishes, are made with dried meat, eggs, tomatoes,  grand bell pepper, and much garlic and onion.

I learned with my mother to put a little cured cheese over tomato, to mix bacon with beans, to mix eggs with rice, I mean, very ordinary ingredients that can become delicious food. It was only after I became a Chef I discovered the concept of Umami.

GFR: Will you be utilising any of the bounty of local ingredients during your presentation?

MS: Yes,  I really will. One of the first thing I want to do when I arrive in Stratford will be to visit a market.

GFR: I believe that you learned to cook from your mother, who founded your Tordesillas restaurant. What was the most important thing that she taught you about cooking?

MS: My mother taught me using the simple ingredients with care, extracting the best of them.

GFR: What’s the best way to describe Brazilian cuisine? and how is it different from other cuisines in Latin America?

MS: Brazilian cuisine is more natural. Our natives are younger than mayas, aztecas, incas and our tropical geography,  our diversity provided natural food without too much human effort, without using technique of conservation because of the foods’ abundance.

GFR: And what do you think are some common misconceptions that people have about Brazilian food?

MS: We have to discover our own country. Brasil is like a continent with a fabulous geographic and cultural diversity. Maybe we have to look inside more than outside.

GFR: For you, what makes Brazilian food authentically Brazilian?

MS: The way of Brazilian eating, mixing lots of ingredients in the same plate, the vigour and the passion for simple and well made food like our grandmothers used to prepare.

GFR: Are there certain areas of Brazil whose foods are particular favourites of yours? And why?

MS: We can find  particular ingredients important in biomas Cerrado and Amazonia. I like cooking fish and manioc flour from Amazonia.

GFR: Brazilian cuisine is often thought of as being heavily meat-focused… What kind of options are there for vegetarians?

MS: There are innumerable native vegetables, fruits, and roots that would satisfy any vegetarian!

GFR: For people that haven’t had the opportunity to try your food before, can you describe a dish that you think reflects what the restaurant is about? What characteristics and ingredients distinguish the cuisine at your Tordesilhas restaurant in São Paulo?

MS: A cuisine that is unpretentious, lightness coupled with technique… and truly Brazilian ingredients

GFR: Stratford has always been one of my favourite culinary and cultural destinations. As well as presenting your session at Savour Stratford what else do you hope to do with your time there?

MS: I think enjoy the city, change experiences and taste local food.  I also want to watch the shows of the event, tasting Ontario wine, Ontario craft beers and take a hot coffee during the festival, as I’m from a tropical country I’m sure I will feel quite cold.

GFR: Thank you for your time Mara, we look forward to seeing you in Stratford!


Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution
… And it looks as if his itinerary will be pretty darn full at this year’s Savour Stratford.