Brazil Elliott FT

Chef Elliott Goes to Brazil to Visit Chef’s Training Program Alumni

Posted June 10, 2016

Last month Chef Elliott Prag, an instructor in our Chef’s Training Program, was invited to Brazil by one of his former students. He unquestionably accepted the offer and quickly started his planning. During his time in Brazil, he had the opportunity to teach a cooking class among breathtaking views, meet up with other alumni, tour Rio de Janeiro, and experience the country’s remarkable cuisine. Not a bad way to three-day weekend, right? Read on to learn about Chef Elliott’s experience, and how NGI alumni are making an impact on the Brazilian food scene.

Not long ago, I received a social media blast from the past. My student from many years ago, Ana Elisa de Castro, reached out from “Cidade Maravilhosa” – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to you and me – with an invitation: Would I like to come and teach cooking classes at her new school NOS Escola?

Teach in Rio? Never been. YES, PLEASE.

Brazilians are no strangers to Natural Gourmet Institute. As an NGI instructor of 16 years, I can’t recall a time when there weren’t at least 3 or 4 kicking about the place. Brazilians have a knack for taking their NGI education, combining it with their own passions, and translating that into unique, transformative projects in their native land.

Cut to the chase: I flew to Rio in late May for a quick jaunt – 3 days. But action-packed they were. I saw and ate my way through a lot of the city thanks to my friend and former student Daniel Biron, who’s also doing great things professionally (more on that).

NOS Escola is new, but already legend. There were 40 students registered! Classes were held at a breathtaking location, in the shadow of an impressive rock (Pedra da Gávea). Students were already mid-weekend when I arrived, having had other instruction in yoga, cooking, and other holistic lifestyle practices.

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I taught basic cooking techniques and Middle Eastern food through the miracle of simultaneous translation (me and my students all geared up 21st Century style with headphones). It was my privilege to be assisted by old friends: graduates Luciana Figueiredo, Nathalie Passos, and Daniel Biron. It was a particular novelty for a Midwesterner like me to cook on an open balcony surrounded by tropical splendor (there were actual bananas growing – WHAT?).

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My journey was quick, but there enough time to do 2 things on my checklist. One of them was to see Daniel Biron’s currently-under-construction restaurant Teva (the Hebrew word for “nature” or “everything in the world that isn’t man-made”).

Daniel told me Teva is to be a sophisticated, night-time dining venue featuring the highest quality plant-based cuisine that is local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable. For his restaurant, he eschews labels such as “vegan” or “vegetarian.” Even though he is vegan, he hopes all people will appreciate the taste and quality of his food, regardless of their dietary practices or philosophies.

Daniel Brazil

My other stop: Naturalie Bistro, a vegetarian restaurant in the Botafogo neighborhood, owned and operated by our graduate, Nathalie Passos. Nathalie comes from a family of restaurateurs. Her venue is large, airy, and lovely, and the food was an impressive showcase of what you can do with vegetarian cuisine. Nathalie treated Daniel and me to a feast for lunch that included fresh Brazilian juices (the like of which you can’t taste in New York), a tender tomato cake topped with fresh ricotta and locally sundried tomatoes, the classic feijoada (black bean stew), and a killer cassava cake for dessert. Thanks, Nathalie.




That’s my Rio update. Now what’s going on with our grads in São Paulo?