I received an interesting call on New Year’s Eve 2011, at around 10:30pm. The person on the other end of the line was calling to see if I would be interested in travelling to São Paulo Brazil to teach southern-style barbecue to a group that was wanting to open a restaurant. My initial thought was that this was a prank made by one of my buddies who was celebrating on NYE. Long story short, it was not a prank and I did go!
It seems that what we consider traditional “low n slow” barbecue is non existent in Brazil. They excel with their Brazilian Bar Ba Coa restaurants that are common down there and are popping up around here. The meats – mostly beef – are grilled on rotisserie spits and carved directly from them at your table. But low n slow doesn’t exist there which is why they called me in.
I made the overnight flight south and the day I arrived we got to work. The first thing they wanted to do was to show me Brazil’s version of barbecue, which is the above mentioned style. We went to Bar Ba Coa and the food was excellent. All of the meats were seasoned with just salt and pepper and the flavor was sublime. After that we visited a butcher shop to pick up some chicken leg quarters, and then went to the beautiful home that would be our base for the next 5 days.
The 14 hour days following were a blur of meat and smoke as we proceeded to barbecue and eat pork shoulder, pork ribs, brisket, prime rib, skirt steak, beef ribs, cheese, turkey, and chicken. All were discussed in detail and for the most part everything was fantastic. There was a challenge obtaining certain US style cuts, particularly pork butts and beef briskets. We spent a fair amount of time at a butcher shop speaking with the owner about the possibility of getting these cuts and I believe it either has happened or will happen. We also discussed pit design and construction, as there are no barbecue pits there like we are accustomed to. Whatever they were going to use in the restaurant would have to be designed by us and built down there.
For the final day of the trip the guys had invited other investors and friends over for a tasting party, showcasing what we had learned. I don’t speak Portuguese but the looks on the faces, and general moaning and eyes rolling back is a pretty universal sign that the food was a big hit. The guys reaffirmed this for me by interpreting and saying that the guests really loved it.
The trip was a huge success and a great adventure for me. I would have never guessed that my love of barbecue would lead me to São Paulo Brazil of all places. I consider myself very fortunate to be the one who helps bring American style barbecue to a country for the first time and introduce our original cuisine to their culture. We are in the process of scheduling my next visit so that I can help them become accustomed to their new pit as soon as it is completed. I look forward to the trip and the chance to both teach and learn.