Food has always been my pas­sion, but it only became the guide­line of my life when I was twenty-eight. Before that, I lived my life search­ing for my true poten­tial. I was real­ly lucky to take part in Brazil’s first pro­fes­sion­al chef’s train­ing in 2000. This is real­ly recent, this cul­ture in Brazil. As I was con­stant­ly in the deep process of trans­form­ing ingre­di­ents, I learned how to be orga­nized, com­mit­ted, con­fi­dent. But what I got the most out of it, is by inter­act­ing with peo­ple you learn so much about your­self and about your val­ues, such as trust, gen­eros­i­ty, cooperation.

In 2004, after work­ing for more than ten years as a cook, I vis­it­ed a favela for the first time. I saw in cook­ing a way to train peo­ple, and so I offered a voca­tion­al train­ing pro­gram in a local insti­tu­tion. In that same year, I was invit­ed to the Youth Employment Network Conference, a part­ner­ship between the UN, ILO, and the World Bank, to speak about what we were sup­posed to do in the next year in Brazil.

But then I had a vision. The poten­tial for food not only to train peo­ple and employ, but to cre­ate social cohe­sion and a heal­ing force for peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties in trou­bled sit­u­a­tions. I have been work­ing to pro­mote social gas­tron­o­my for eleven years as a chef and as a social entre­pre­neur. I ded­i­cate my life to turn­ing gas­tron­o­my into one of the most pow­er­ful tools to empow­er the mar­gin­al­ized and cre­ate bridges between dif­fer­ent social realities. 

Recognitions and nom­i­na­tions such as an Ashoka fel­low­ship and a TED fel­low­ship, as well as being nom­i­nat­ed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum proved to me that the impact of our work in Brazil is being noticed on an inter­na­tion­al level. 

This all led me to this impor­tant moment at the World Bank, where I’m now shar­ing my vision on cook­ing as a dri­ver of change in the world with all of you. It was in a WEF meet­ing in Myanmar when I had one of the most insight­ful expe­ri­ences. To con­tribute with a pos­i­tive impact on the fast eco­nom­ic growth in effect in the coun­try, we gath­ered over fifty lead­ers and chefs, and glob­al lead­ers, to rethink about the effect in the coun­try of the eco­nom­ic growth, but with the hos­pi­tal­i­ty mar­ket, and build a food vision of social change and sustainability 

After Aung San Suu Kyi heard about our work, she defined how food val­ue change could real­ly affect her coun­try pos­i­tive­ly. When you val­ue the food chain, buy­ing local ingre­di­ents, you help vil­lages to have a sus­tain­able income. You pre­serve tra­di­tions. You devel­op culi­nary skills and attract tourists with an authen­tic and local cui­sine. That day, I had the clear response that I am about to share here: it works anywhere.

But you must be ask­ing, how can we do it? I want to [?] the expe­ri­ence I’ve been doing in Brazil. But first of all, I want to talk about the expe­ri­ence of the my first trainee, where I learned the most out of it. In 2004, I met Uridéia She was nine­teen years old. She came from a dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly and did­n’t believe in her poten­tial. She was job­less and had lit­tle in skills. She dreamt of hav­ing the same rights and oppor­tu­ni­ties as me or the mid­dle class Brazilians of the wealthy Brazilians.

So, imag­ine liv­ing in a place where 53% of the pop­u­la­tion had already felt hunger, and 34 of the inhab­i­tants con­sid­er it vio­lent. Fear and prej­u­dice are every­where. The place where the state has almost no rules. It’s ruled by drug traf­fick­ing. But there are tremen­dous chal­lenges, as all of us in this room are aware. But there is also huge oppor­tu­ni­ty. We eat three times a day. In America, 50% of the peo­ple who live here eat out­side their hous­es. In Brazil, it’s going towards that. One third of the pop­u­la­tion eat out of their homes. 

Only in my city, São Paulo, there are forty-four thou­sand for­mal food estab­lish­ments such as restau­rants, pizze­rias, chur­ras­carias, employ­ing eight hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple. Twenty per­cent of the eco­nom­ic active pop­u­la­tion, aged between twen­ty and thirty-nine. And the main com­plaint of all the restau­rant own­ers and chefs is how we get trained peo­ple. Therefore, there is a very rel­e­vant mar­ket that can offer solu­tions of for­mal employ­ment, but there is a need of acces­si­ble train­ing. Considering the gaps in edu­ca­tion, the oppor­tu­ni­ty in the mar­ket, and my dream of a more equi­table soci­ety, I thought, What if I get peo­ple like Uridéia to become involved with cook­ing? What if through cook­ing, they can become what they are meant to be?”

With that goal in mind I cofound­ed an orga­ni­za­tion to be the foun­da­tion for the social gas­tro­nom­ic move­ment. Gastromotiva offers free culi­nary pro­grams for unpriv­i­leged young peo­ple who have zero oppor­tu­ni­ties, most of the time don’t even have mon­ey for trans­porta­tion. Our voca­tion­al train­ing focus­es not only on tech­nique skills, but also the aware­ness and the con­nec­tion between man and nature, as well as devel­op­ing entre­pre­neur­ship, lead­er­ship, there­fore empowerment.

In sev­en years, we’ve trained over twelve hun­dred of these very tal­ent­ed young peo­ple. They are now all employed in for­mal kitchen jobs. We are part­ners with more than sev­en­ty restau­rant own­ers and chefs who guar­an­tee the jobs. All of them get out employed, and 90% after two years are still build­ing their careers in the restau­rants. This year alone, our goal is to train a thou­sand trainees in four dif­fer­ent cities by part­ner­ing with oth­er state gov­ern­ments and Brazil’s most pres­ti­gious chef Alex Atala, we are able now to scale this project to pris­ons, and also to job­less immi­grants who are arriv­ing from oth­er places from South America such as Peru and Bolivia.

We use peer-to-peer edu­ca­tion to apply to mul­ti­ply the social tech­nol­o­gy. Our trainees become the teach­ers. They are teach­ing in the pris­ons, encour­ag­ing them to become inde­pen­dent, with a crit­i­cal mind to solve prob­lems, work­ing as a team, and being ori­ent­ed towards oth­ers. Last year, they were able to train also in their com­mu­ni­ties, through work­shops, thir­ty thou­sand peo­ple. What are trainees teach­ing? How to cook. The impor­tance of food to the nutri­tion and well-being of their families. 

So, after lis­ten­ing to the ideas dis­cussed pre­vi­ous­ly this ses­sion, I want to reclaim the pow­er of cook­ing. Why is cook­ing so impor­tant to feed nine bil­lion peo­ple? Over the last decade, we have felt the respon­si­bil­i­ty on food. We left the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the food we eat to the indus­try. And to bring back cook­ing to the core of our activ­i­ties in the future, we need to look beyond the obvious.

When our trainees go back to their com­mu­ni­ties, they take with them a holis­tic cook­ing con­cept: when you cook, you eat and live bet­ter. You take respon­si­bil­i­ty for your health while learn­ing how to use fresh ingre­di­ents, the ones that are bet­ter for us and for the plan­et. In the same process, cook­ing helps us under­stand the val­ue chain of food, and how choic­es can cre­ate a pos­i­tive impact and envi­ron­men­tal impact. Cooking express­es our cul­ture and gives us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about oth­ers. Through cook­ing, we pre­serve ancient wis­dom, tra­di­tion, and respect for one anoth­er. And we are teach­ing moth­ers how to feed wise­ly their chil­dren. Since they are the future adults who will make the right con­sump­tion choic­es, our trainees under­stand the [urgency?] of the sub­ject, and they have taught us, and they have cho­sen 2015 to be year of the chil­dren in food edu­ca­tion in Gastromotiva.

We believe cook­ing’s the fastest, strongest, and most effec­tive way to trans­form peo­ple. It can be done any­where. It can be done in a short time. There are kitchens every­where. Chefs are inspired to have addi­tion­al pur­pose through that hard work. You are wit­ness­ing a new move­ment arise, a social gas­tro­nom­ic move­ment. So, our mod­el can be repli­cat­ed any­where, but that’s still a dream. What we real­ly want is to pro­mote dis­cus­sions, debates, in every sec­tor of soci­ety. We are com­mit­ting to exchange knowl­edge and mul­ti­ply this con­cept. I’m here to ask you to help us to cre­ate a social gas­tro­nom­ic forum and com­mit our­selves to this move­ment as part of the future of food.

Scene Uridéia joined us, she has become a moth­er and an entre­pre­neur, employ­ing more than twen­ty peo­ple a month with her cater­ing com­pa­ny. She became an inspi­ra­tion to all com­mu­ni­ties. She found a place of love and accep­tance deep in her heart. And no dif­fi­cul­ties can take away her com­mit­ment to live her life with joy and pride.

Everyone has the right to dream about a life project, and the poten­tial to involve a com­mu­ni­ty con­tin­u­ous­ly. If giv­en the right tools to progress, with col­lab­o­ra­tion and encour­age­ment, the pro­fes­sion­als from the hos­pi­tal­i­ty mar­ket are becom­ing engaged with the pow­er of cook­ing, and con­nect­ed with mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. This is the tran­scen­dence of this move­ment. It goes beyond one meal, one kitchen, or one Michelin star. In the end, food is for people. 

Thank you.

Further Reference

Overview page for the MAD at the World Bank: The Future of Food” event.