Why the owner of the biggest barbecue event in Brazil hardly eats meat...


Chef Gustavo Bottino at SOIL VEGAN CAFE with Future Farm burger and Salads
Gustavo Bottino: hamburger made of isolated pea protein at Soil, in Amsterdam

by Gabrielli Menezes from UOL


Once a week. This is the frequency estimated by Chef Gustavo Bottino for his consumption of beef, pork, fish, seafood and other animals.


The habit could makes him part of flexitarianism — a group that opts for a less radical vegetarianism. But he considers his story more complex than that: "I prefer not to fit into stereotypes". After graduating in management and working for 20 years as an executive at multinationals, he co-founded, in 2012, the extinct BOS Barbecue, a restaurant that used the smoking technique to prepare meat.


Heading the business, Bottino cooked in open fire gastronomic events around the world. Inspired by these trips, he created Churrascada, a barbecue event that would later become one of the world's largest gastronomic gatherings.


At the time, the entrepreneur had steaks as his favorite "mix", both for everyday meals and for celebrations.

Vegan Carrousel Marcos Livi Gustavo Bottino SOIL Vegan Café at Churrascada
Vegan Carrousel by Marcos Livi. Curation by Gustavo Bottino from SOIL Vegan Café at Churrascada

However, during a severe water crisis that caused historic losses in reservoirs in his hometown São Paulo between 2014 and 2016, raised questions in the mind of the then carnivore.


He explains: as pointed out in a United Nations report , the high consumption of meat and dairy products is one of the villains of carbon emissions and contributes to global warming and climate change, such as droughts.


"I got into a personal conflict. Meat was my World"

The bestselling author Michael Pollain argues that we have more power over our food choices than in many other areas of our lives. "We can vote with our forks," he says.


Inspired by the American journalist, Bottino decided he was willing to find a middle term on his plate. For this reason, he started to treat meat as a delicacy: reduce its consumption but also increasing its value.


"It is not a product to be consumed daily, three times a day, without conscience. Even when it is to eat, the ideal is to give preference to producers with sustainable practices ".


This approach is increasingly common in rich countries. While the European Union (EU) predicts that per capita intake in the bloc will fall by 1.6% by 2030, the UK has encouraged a 30% cut in animal protein that is put on the table over the next decade in a food strategy report.


In Brazil, the scenario is different. "We understand 'no meat' food as of lesser value," says Bottino, who believes that eating is a matter of status for a the majority of their population


Grilled Veggies at Churrascada Curated by Gustavo Bottino, created by Luisa Hoffmann, Vegan Grill Barbecue
Grilled Veggies at Churrascada Curated by Gustavo Bottino, created by Luisa Hoffmann

Another confusion, according to him, is in thinking that meat can be inexpensive. "It's an illusion. We don't calculate the social and environmental impact of production and distribution. It is an intrinsically expensive product.


"At some other point, at some other time, we will pay as a company for such a discount."

Between Two Worlds


Naturally, his decision to consume meat "strategically" was questioned both by those who preach veganism and by fellow barbecue chefs. "Obviously, in that moment, I could have looked at my past and turned my back on it. But I realized that my ability to impact would be far greater if I stayed involved with that world."


For example, at Churrascada he requests that every chef develops at least one vegan dish. For chefs, it serves as a stimulus to build flavors without ingredients of animal origin and, for guests, as an invitation to open their minds. Chef Marina Sciotti, who also eats meat, participated in the festival in 2019 with Quincho, a vegetable restaurant.


Serving a completely vegan grilled menu, she welcomes this attempt to bring extremes together:


"When these two markets meet, the outdated view that vegetarian cooking is only for those who do not consume meat is broken. Vegetarianism is for everyone because the carnivore also consumes vegetables."


Smoked Shiitake Mushroom Tacos created by Mari Sciotti Churrascada Gustavo Bottino Vegan Vegetarian BBQ
Smoked Shiitake Tacos created by Mari Sciotti for Churrascada curated by Gustavo Bottino

Since 2018, Bottino has been working alongside vegetable-based dishes at his Soil Vegan Cafe in Amsterdam. "I saw vegan food as something exotic. When I started researching and cooking, I was able to come up with ideas that brought me pleasure."


In the animal-free menu aimed at the non-vegan public, there are meatballs, hamburgers, duck and even pastrami — all made from isolated plant proteins, such as peas and wheat, known as seitan or vital gluten.


Soba Noodle Seitan Duck Vegan Dashi Gustavo Bottino SOIL VEGAN CAFE
Soba Noodles with Seitan Duck at SOIL VEGAN CAFE

Although this mimicry of the "natural" is seen as something dubious by the gastronomic community, which disputes the degree of food processing, the "meat that is not meat" boosted the creation of new companies, such as Fazenda Futuro, and it already does. part of the expansion plan of food market giants such as BRF .


Bottino recognizes that the commitment to producing an item with less environmental impact is as necessary as delivering a truly healthy product, but that the effort is to connect the public with what they already know: "When we launch a hamburger made from another ingredient, it is clear what kind of experience the customer will have. The same happens with the so-called vegetable "milk". It would be a mess to create an entirely new food category.


"The situation is critical. There is no time for this."


Post translated from original article by Gabrielle Menezes on UOL





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