Neither doctor, nor astronaut, nor fireman. The childhood dream of Ricardo Penna was always being a barbecuer. He grew up, went to food engineering college and is now a gastronomic consultant specialized in meats and barbecues. After 10 years working in Brazil and with two books published on the matter, Penninha, as he is known, is now winning the world.
"Brazilian beef pleases the palate of foreigners and there is demand for taking the business to other countries," explains the businessman who recently coordinated the implementation of a barbecue restaurant in Italy, where he met businessmen from Saudi Arabia, and has just closed deals with Canada and the United States.
"The Saudis were greatly interested in my work. I gave them my contact information. Now all I have to do is await a possible partnership," he stated.
The contacts with the restaurants in Canada and the United States, in turn, were closed during the NRA Show, in Chicago, in May this year. The consultant participated in a mission organized by the Minas Gerais branch of the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae) and the Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants (Abrasel).
"In Miami I am going to organize the Brazilian appetizer menu for a restaurant. Apart from that, I am also going to select Brazilian cultural attractions for the house," he explains. "In Miami I am also going to accompany the assembly of a barbecue grill, which is going to work in a continuous service system," he adds.
His years of experience made it possible for Penninha to discover new techniques for meat seasoning and better use of the nutrients in foods. "Throughout the food engineering course I did tests and discovered the possibilities of mixing textures, flavors and aromas. I learnt how to extract everything that food can give that is best," he explained. "I also prepare menus with salads and appetizers, but meat is always the main product in my work," stated the businessman, who defines himself as an "alchemist of meats".
The word alchemy comes from Arabic, Al-Khemy, which means "chemistry". In the Arab culture, alchemy was a mixture of science, art and magic that flourished gradually until it reached the initial form of chemistry. Alchemy refers to the transformation of the substance of objects in the presence of a spiritual agent, often called the "philosopher's stone".
Apart from trying and creating new forms of preparing foods, Penninha decided to register in his books some precious clues, like when he explains why vinegar and lemon should not be used to season beef. "Beef is very rich in myoglobin (a protein responsible for the oxygenation of muscles), which will cause a reaction making the meat tougher," he explains.
Last year, the consultant launched the book "Transforming second class meats into noble ones", which brings over 3,500 possibilities of recipes described in details, from sanitary care to decoration of the dish.
But the sales success of the businessman, who also gives courses and talks about the matter, is the book "The Alchemy of the Barbecue", launched in 2004 and already at its eighth edition.
The proposal of the book is to answer a basic question: how an activity that is supposedly simple, like roasting meat over a charcoal fire, can produce so many varieties.
"The book describes each area of this art, from the instruments to the choice of meats, up to how to remove and serve it," explains Penninha.
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