It is located in one of the less favourable neighbourhoods outside the city centre of São Paulo and the affordable food is made from the most ordinary ingredients. Nevertheless, Mocotó, the restaurant of top-chef Rodrigo Oliveira, is among Brazil’s most praised restaurants by international food critics, chefs and food lovers. ‘For me gastronomy should be inclusive instead of exclusive,’ says Oliveira who receives famous TV stars alongside workers from the neighbourhood in his restaurant.
Oliveira grew up in the restaurant of his father, but at first started to study environmental engineering. Eventually, his roots drew him to a culinary education, which today made him ‘perhaps the most authentic Brazilian experience at the moment,’ as fellow top-chef Alex Atala phrases it.
Oliveira’s mission is to make extraordinary dishes using the most common ingredients he finds in the northeast of Brazil, one of the most poor and dry regions of the country. ‘We are cooking from our origins in Brazil, using really ordinary and cheap ingredients like cassava, corn, beans and vegetables and trying to make something special out of it,’ Oliveira says.
A signature dish of Mocotó is made from tapioca, cheese, milk and a little pepper, now copied in restaurants across the world. Dishes like these connect Brazilians to their past, while they introduce foreigners to the intense flavours, colours and textures that represent Brazilian culture. Reason enough for Brazilians and foreigners, rich and poor, to queue patiently outside the restaurant for a free table.