Marketing Brazilian cuisine in foreign land, taking Brazilian dishes to other countries and helping to turn food into a tourist attraction. These are some of the goals of the Brasil Sabor ("Brazil Flavor") movement, created by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae), the Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants (Abrasel) and the Ministry of Tourism.
To that extent, appearances of Brasil Sabor in foreign events have already been scheduled.
On May 2006, Brasil Sabor featured at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, in Chicago, a fair for American bar and restaurant owners. Participants and visitors at NRA, from the United States and other countries, had a chance to taste delicious dishes of the Brazilian cuisine, such as cheese bread, guava paste, milk candy, escondidinho (a dish made of jerked beef and white carrot), and guaraná (traditional Brazilian drink made of the guaraná plant seed).
"It was odd. People would look at the dishes and seem sort of suspicious, but once they tasted them, they were delighted," says the president of Abrasel, Paulo Solmucci.
In June, Brasil Sabor was in New York. For two weeks, four Brazilian chefs cooked typical dishes at the restaurant of the United Nations (UN). Solmucci recalls that the dishes that pleased the UN employees the most were moqueca (fish stew), baked pork loin, acarajé (traditional spicy bean fritter, characteristic of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia), and quindim (egg and coconut custard) for dessert.
The average number of meals served at the UN restaurant was 250 to 300 a day. On our second week there, the number of meals reached 800," says proudly the president of Abrasel. "We cooked them some dishes that are simple for us, but the restaurant regulars were fascinated," he claims. "This attests to the quality standard of our food."
For 2007, there already is a schedule for Brasil Sabor abroad. The movement will return to Chicago for the NRA event, and then it will travel to London in November. According to the movement's organizers, in addition to England, two other European countries will host the Brazilian cuisine. Those will probably be Spain and Portugal, according to the Abrasel.
To the national manager for tourism projects at the Sebrae Collective Support Unit for Trade and Services, Dival Schmidt, in addition to promoting Brazilian cuisine abroad, the participation in events such as the NRA contributes for Brazilian institutions and businessmen to keep track of the latest techniques in countries such as the United States and France.
"We obviously do not intend to replicate French cuisine in Brazil, but we can learn French food preparation techniques," claims Dival Schmidt. "Our cuisine already has a wealth of flavors. We just need to incorporate some systematizations and concepts," he says.
To Paulo Solmucci, if on the one hand Brazilian cuisine stands out for its diversity, on the other hand, that same variety prevents the dishes from being immediately recognized by the foreign public, as is the case with the French, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Arab and Spanish cuisines.
"In Brazil, the cuisine is totally different from one state to another," claims Solmucci. "These foreign events may serve for people in other countries to become aware of our ethnic and cultural variety, so they can understand the diversity of our cuisine," he says.
In the opinion of Dival Schmidt, Brazilian cuisine must be promoted both abroad and domestically, since each region has its own typical dishes, which are not always known in the rest of the country. "Amazonian states such as Amapá (N) have wonderful fish recipes, which require more promotion."
According to Schmidt, an initiative aimed at promoting the diversity of Brazilian cuisine in the domestic realm was the Brazilian Tourism Salon, held in the southeastern Brazilian city of São Paulo in 2006. During the event, Abrasel built a food court featuring two typical dishes from each state of Brazil.