“D.O.M.” offers a glimpse into the world of chef Alex Atala, who was named as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2013. His Sao Paolo restaurant, D.O.M. (Deo Optimo Maximo, “To God, most good, most great”), ranks among the world’s best restaurants.
And yet, it didn’t start as a gastronomic restaurant. Instead, what Atala sought to do was make the restaurant as Brazilian as possible. In his kitchen he uses both modern and classical techniques to bring about the flavor of Brazilian ingredients at their best.
The search for these ingredients took him into the forests, jungles, and among native tribes of the Amazon. In one region of the northernmost tip of the Amazon, home to 23 ethnic groups who have domesticated about 300 wild plant species, a woman shows him how she uses saúva ants as a spice (“a strong note of lemongrass, supported by ginger and cardamom,” writes Atala).
For the past 15 years, working with scientists and anthropologists, Atala has developed eco-friendly and commercially viable ways to cultivate native produce, which had never been used in a restaurant before. His objective is as much conservation of nature as of people.
You won’t be cooking much from Alex Atala’s cookbook, but it fulfills a completely different purpose. Through his simple and thoughtful writing, and photos that render the warmth of Brazil’s ecosystems, Atala brings you with him on an exploration of Brazil’s ingredients, and the people and places that are linked to them.
D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients
By Alex Atala
Phaidon Press, 2013, hardback, $49.95