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Food and beverage stories

Seafood seduces iconic chef

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One of the world’s top chefs, Brazilian Alex Atala, has ‘been seduced’ by Tasmania’s seafood during a day on the water cruising the beautiful D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

The culinary superstar – recently ranked as the seventh most influential chef – joined Pennicott Wilderness Journeys for a Tasmanian Seafood Seduction cruise to Bruny Island, where lunch was pulled fresh from the sea.

“It is so beautiful in Tasmania, so natural, and everyone here is so respectful of nature,” he told us as the boat anchored in a sheltered bay.

And for Atala, the highlight came when skipper, Kate Wilson, dove into the water to collect the day’s feast – abalone and sea urchin straight out of the sea.

Plump Bruny Island oysters and succulent rock lobsters rounded out the menu.

View video to join Alex Atala on his Tasmanian Seafood Seduction cruise.

Video still - Atala
Watch video on YouTube

“It is so good to be here and to try this beautiful seafood,” Atala said.

“Sao Paulo [Brazil’s capital] has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, so naturally seafood features very heavily on the menu,” Atala adds.

“We use a lot of fish, but only wild fish, and I make sure all our ingredients are natural and sustainable.”

However, as well as being a culinary experience, the cruise was also a chance for Atala to indulge in another one of his passions – the water.

“I have a deep connection with the sea,” he explained.

“Ever since the age of 13, I have been a passionate diver, and my very first job was in a dive shop in Sao Paulo and I make the effort to go diving whenever I can.

“I am also very passionate about looking after our oceans, and one of the things that really stands out as I look around today, is that there is no rubbish, and no plastic in the water.

“That is inspirational.”

Atala was taking time out during a visit to Tasmania last month, where he was the star attraction at this year’s Great Chefs Series, which is a collaboration between TasTAFE Drysdale and Tourism Northern Tasmania.

As part of the event, he spent three days working alongside local apprentice Chefs, and helped them prepare a stunning degustation dinner at Josef Chromy Wines, near Launceston.

It is hard to express the importance of Atala’s visit to Tasmania, or, indeed the extent of his fame and influence.

Atala’s two-Michelin-starred D.O.M., in Sao Paulo, is Brazil’s top restaurant, and currently ranks 16 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Only last month, his peers nominated Atala the seventh best chef in the world.

And in 2014, Time Magazine chose Atala as one of the 100 most influential people on this planet – the only chef to make the list that year.

Atala is famous not only for pushing culinary boundaries – with dishes such as gold dusted ants – but also for putting Brazilian gastronomy on the world map.

He is a champion of native Brazilian ingredients, especially those grown deep within the Amazonian rainforest and embraced by indigenous communities.

“Brazilian flavours are so diverse and there are so many different ingredients,” Atala explains.

This is showcased at D.O.M., which fuses fine dining with wild flavours sourced from the Amazon Basin – like tucupi, a fermented manioc juice, the herb jambu, which creates a tingling sensation on the tongue, and a milk pudding flavoured with priprioca, an aromatic root used in making perfumes.

Atala may be revered around the world, but he remains humble, and insists his journey is much more than just food.

As the great chef once said: “I am famous in my little food world, one of the top 50 chefs, but I don’t want to look back in ten years and think that I didn’t use my voice.”

Image courtesy of Rob Reibel

8 November 2018, Edition 200

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