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Mission Europe 2: The Brazilian Food Smuggler

I can enjoy simplicity.  I can respect a person that is true to their perspective.  I can also appreciate illegal activity committed for a good cause, particularly if that cause brings me some form of culinary pleasure.  I am no stranger to ingredient smuggling and have met many people who risk losing a purchased item due to international security measures.  The reality of the situation is, that if your item is still in your suitcase when you return home, the plans you have for it are usually grand and delicious.

When Roberta Sudbrack began the Theater of Taste with her anecdote of dividing up ingredients between suitcases of her entourage in hopes that at least one would make it to Italy and then being pleasantly surprised that they all made it…I liked her instantly.

The workshop on Brazilian cuisine was a wonderful representation of Chef Roberta’s philosophy.  She calls herself a crazy chef.  Her restaurant, named after her, located in Rio de Janeiro, hosts a menu that changes daily.  Her technique relies on her focus on using her hands rather than a lot of tools.  She bases her cooking on 2 principles she calls pillars:

  • Simplicity & Essence

Chef Roberta Sudbrack shared three dishes with us.  The first was a dish she called the Vegetable Oyster.  It was inspired by the desire to not waste anything and the thought that all ingredients are equally valuable.  She carefully removed the seed sections of a tomato, a commonly discarded part of said fruit, leaving them in intact pouches.  This was topped with fried parsley and just a pinch of salt.  Simple, refreshing and flavorful.

The second dish brought to us compliments of distracted airport security officials was a fresh palm heart concoction.  Combined with the flavors of cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and sugar, this dish also attested to our chefs cooking principles.  The final dish served during the Theater of Taste was a chocolate mousse sprinkled with toasted cassava (also known as yuca or manioc) flour and cocoa nibs.  The combination of flavors and textures was unexpected and quite unique.

The Theater of Taste was delightful.  If any one conclusion was to be drawn about the workshop and the chef, it could be said that Roberta Sudbrack has a clear culinary point of view and she not only sticks to it but shares it with her clients.  So next time you are about to throw away a remnant of a vegetable or you are looking for something different to do with an everyday ingredient such as flour, perhaps you can borrow a page from Chef Roberta’s book.

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