D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients

Alex Atala’s cookbook is out. This year, the brazilian chef was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people, spoke at events like MAD3 in a controversial performance killing a chicken on stage and now he comes showing his discoveries, creations and some of Brazil’s widely diverse food traditions.

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D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients is an exclusive look at one of the world’s most exciting chefs, his unique relationship with the produce of his native Brazil and the food he creates from it.

Recently voted as number 4 in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant Awards, Alex Atala’s restaurant D.O.M has built its unique style of cuisine on the discovery and exploration of Brazilian ingredients combined with a commitment to finding sustainable solutions to sourcing them to the benefit of the Amazon and its people.

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A former punk DJ who was classically trained as a chef in Europe, Atala refuses to import ingredients such as caviar, truffles and fois gras, staples in many high-end restaurant kitchens, into Brazil and instead scours the Amazon for indigenous produce to fuse with classical techniques in his cooking. He then works with the Amazon’s native communities and small-scale producers to extend the availability of these native products around Brazil.

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This commitment to not only producing delicious food, but also using his kitchen as a tool for social responsibility and conservation has led to the introduction of many new and unknown ingredients onto his menu, such as a new variety of palm heart that can be farmed and harvested sustainably; the first of its kind.

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This book will tell the individual stories of 65 of the unique ingredients that are used in the kitchens at D.O.M. and Alex’s relationship with them. Each ingredient will be accompanied by a recipe for one of the dishes that it is utilized in and a beautiful image of both the ingredient and the finished dish.

The fascinating texts, stunning photographs and inspiring recipes will combine to create a beautiful cookbook that is fully accessible to the general reader.

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About Alex Atala

A creative chef, Alex Atala is known in Brazil and throughout the world for exploring, through classical techniques, the gastronomical possibilities of Brazilian ingredients. Atala began his career when he was 19 in Belgium, at the École Hôtelière de Namur. In France he worked at Jean Pierre Bruneau’s Michelin 3-star restaurant, and staged at Hotel de la Cote D’Or with Chef Bernard Loiseau. In 1994 he returned to São Paulo, where his performance in several establishments around the city attracted the attention of journalists and gourmands. He opened D.O.M. restaurant in 1999. In 2009 Atala opened his second restaurant, Dalva e Dito, to critical acclaim.

Book photos via R2 Design

Book description via Phaidon

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss – review

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New York Times journalist Michael Moss spent three-and-a-half years working out how big food companies get away with churning out products that undermine the health of those who eat them. He interviewed hundreds of current and former food industry insiders – chemists, nutrition scientists, behavioural biologists, food technologists, marketing executives, package designers, chief executives and lobbyists. What he uncovered is chilling: a hard-working industry composed of well-paid, smart, personable professionals, all keenly focused on keeping us hooked on ever more ingenious junk foods; an industry that thinks of us not as customers, or even consumers, but as potential “heavy users”.

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‘Only sugar processors have the brass neck to present it as anything other than an ingredient we would do well to eat as little of as possible.’

New York Times journalist Michael Moss spent three-and-a-half years working out how big food companies get away with churning out products that undermine the health of those who eat them. He interviewed hundreds of current and former food industry insiders – chemists, nutrition scientists, behavioural biologists, food technologists, marketing executives, package designers, chief executives and lobbyists. What he uncovered is chilling: a hard-working industry composed of well-paid, smart, personable professionals, all keenly focused on keeping us hooked on ever more ingenious junk foods; an industry that thinks of us not as customers, or even consumers, but as potential “heavy users”.

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How do the food giants do it? Moss’s central thesis is that junk food is a legalised type of narcotic. By deliberately manipulating three key ingredients – salt, sugar and fat – that act much like drugs, racing along the same pathways and neural circuitry to reach the brain’s pleasure zones, the food and drinkindustry has created an elastic formula for a never-ending procession of lucrative products.

As Moss explains, the exact formulations of addictive junk foods (and drinks) are not accidental but calculated and perfected by scientists “who know very well what they are doing”. Their job is to establish the necessary “bliss point”, the precise amount of sugar, fat or salt guaranteed to “send consumers over the moon”.

Sugar, with its “high-speed, blunt assault on our brains”, is the “methamphetamine of processed food ingredients”, he believes, while fat is the opiate, “a smooth operator whose effects are less obvious, but no less powerful”. Without salt, he observes, “processed food companies cease to exist”.

There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new in Moss’s assertion that sugar, salt and fat are the unholy trinity of bad food. Food campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic have been saying as much for decades. But the nutrition debate is evolving, and this book is behind the curve. In both the US and UK, the characterisation of saturated fat as a dietary antichrist is being challenged, not by the junk food industry, which makes a mint from spewing out supposedly healthy low-fat products, but by nutritionists and scientists. For instance, a recent review of scientific studies on fat, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that “there is no convincing evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease”.

The problem here is that Moss doesn’t even reference this discussion, merely damning fat in a generic way. So it sounds as if he believes that natural foods that contain it, such as cheese, cream and red meat, are devils incarnate. Many health commentators will have no problem signing up to the argument that the chemically hardened, industrially refined and wholly corrupted oils used to make products such as crisps and fried chicken are undeniably bad for us, but Moss’s all-out attack on fat is more contentious.

Indeed, this failure to draw a distinction between processed junk and natural food is the flaw that runs through this book and weakens its otherwise worthwhile attack. Sugar, salt and fat get lumped together in physiological terms as addictive substances.

On sugar, however, Moss is on strong ground. Only sugar processors have the brass neck to present it as anything other than an ingredient we would do well to eat as little of as possible, so shining a light on it is most welcome. In recent years, the presence of wanton quantities of sugar in popular processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, has largely been overshadowed, even hidden, by the public health establishment’s obsession with fat. Currently, sugar is the dietary baddie that we can all agree to hate.

But in the case of salt, which Moss appears to condemn as an unalloyed dietary disaster, he shoots himself in the foot by pointing out that more than three-quarters of the salt Americans eat comes from processed food. Where is the evidence to show that this ingredient, which we have had in our diets for millennia, is a problem when consumed in small quantities in homemade food? Does anyone really get addicted to the salt they add as they cook?

Ultimately, the reader is left wondering whether Moss actually enjoys eating, or whether, after years of listening to food industry personnel, he has simply come to view it as a minefield of threatening, and less threatening, substances.

The book relies heavily (and at times tediously) on interviews with, and little pen portraits of, industry insiders, many of whom go out of their way to avoid their own company’s products. He uses these people and their anecdotes to tell the story, but this slows the book down, and gets in the way of analysis.

Moss sees his book as “a wake-up call to the issues and tactics at play in the food industry”, and it does succeed brilliantly in evidencing the systematic venality of corporate junk food and drink interests. It’s naive, he warns us, to think that we can make them behave more responsibly. “Making money is the sole reason they exist,” he writes. But as “a tool for defending ourselves as we walk through those doors”, his book is less convincing.

Readers may find themselves asking what Moss thinks we can do, other than being generally empowered by the insight he has given us into industry dirty dealings. I longed for him to urge his readers to “jerf” ( just eat real food), or urge us to look beyond the well-stacked crisp, confectionery and fizzy drinks aisles so kindly provided by our large food retailers, and explore outlets that are part of a growing alternative vision for our food system. But in the final analysis, Moss ducks that opportunity: “They may have salt, sugar and fat on their side, but we, ultimately, have the power to make choices,” he says. If only it was that simple.

Joanna Blythman is the author of What To Eat

Via The Guardian

The art and science of cooking

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“The most important book in the culinary arts since Escoffier.” — Tim Zagat

A revolution is underway in the art of cooking. Just as French Impressionists upended centuries of tradition, Modernist cuisine has in recent years blown through the boundaries of the culinary arts. Borrowing techniques from the laboratory, pioneering chefs at world-renowned restaurants such as elBulli, The Fat Duck, Alinea, and wd~50 have incorporated a deeper understanding of science and advances in cooking technology into their culinary art. The authors and their 20-person team at The Cooking Lab—scientists, inventors, and accomplished cooks in their own right—have achieved astounding new flavors and textures by using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, and centrifuges, and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, and enzymes. Modernist Cuisine is a work destined to reinvent cooking.

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How do you make an omelet light and tender on the outside, but rich and creamy inside? Or French fries with a light and fluffy interior and a delicate, crisp crust that doesn’t go soggy? Imagine being able to encase a mussel in a gelled sphere of its own sweet and briny juice. Or to create a silky-smooth pistachio cream made from nothing more than the nuts themselves.

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Modernist Cuisine offers step-by-step, illustrated instructions, as well as clear explanations of how these techniques work. Through thousands of original photographs and diagrams, the lavishly illustrated books make the science and technology of the culinary arts clear and engaging. Stunning new photographic techniques take the reader inside the food to see cooking in action all the way from microscopic meat fibers to an entire Weber grill in cross-section. You will view cooking—and eating—in a whole new light.

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From TASCHEN