The first time Rubens Salfer stepped into a kitchen was when he was 18 years old— but it wasn’t the kitchens he’s used to today. He was working part-time at a small restaurant making salads, sandwiches and simple dishes. Shortly after, he left his home country of Brazil to go to Portugal and work at Vila Vita Parc, a five-star hotel in the South of the country. Then, it was on to France to work with Michel Guérard at Eugénie-les-Bains. Working with Guérard helped him to understand the kitchen—what the techniques, responsibilities and hierarchy really mean.
While spending a weekend off in San Sebastián, Spain, he stumbled across Arzak Restaurant, a family-owned restaurant, previously named to The World’s 50 Best list. He knew this was where he needed to be. After working there for two years, he enrolled in a restaurant management course to learn the operational side of kitchens.
Shortly after graduation, he moved back to Brazil with years of experience under his belt and set out to work with Alex Atala, one of the best chefs not only in Brazil, but the world.
Fast-forward to 2019, Chef Rubens is now the Head Chef of Alex Atala’s D.O.M. restaurant group. During any given week, he’s leading the team that serves thousands of Michelin-starred meals in Brazil. ICC was lucky enough to have Chef Rubens make the journey from Brazil to share his knowledge of the Yanomami Mushrooms—the first edible mushroom native to the Amazon Forest.
This one of a kind product, that comes from the agricultural system of the indigenous Sanöma people, uses traditional farming systems and techniques to harvest the mushrooms. Since it is the first mushroom to be sold from the Amazon, the product has benefited their economy and helped to preserve their environment & culture. Chef Rubens even explained how the indigenous culture influences Brazilian gastronomy through the techniques and ingredients that are used.
During the demonstration, we discovered the unique flavors that have attracted attention from top chefs around the world through 4 different preparations of the mushrooms. First, Chef prepared a Consommé with furikake using a secret ingredient for crunch—potato chips! This Consommé also used dried aviú, which are species of small shrimp, usually found in Amazonian rivers. Then, he prepared a creamy mushroom sauce with cassava beiju. Beiju is made with farinha d’água, or tapioca and water, and uses fermented cassava. For Chef’s final dishes, he prepared an egg and mushroom farofa, a traditional toasted cassava or corn flour mixture eaten mainly in Brazil, and a mushroom risotto that brought out the Yanomami’s signature umami.
Below, check out all of the pictures from the demonstration, and be sure to catch our next demonstration!