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Brazilian meat preparation rooted in tradition

At Texas de Brazil, the churrascaria concept reflects a heritage started long ago in the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil, where the churrasco style of cooking meats got its start.

Dallas – Amid the festive ambience of Texas de Brazil, authentically attired gauchos (Brazilian cowboys) roam from table to table with skewers of specially seasoned and slow-roasted meats that are cooked over an open flame. Using savvy swordmanship, they carve these delicacies tableside, creating an elegant and bountiful feast.

From the Brazilian gauchos to the 400-item wine list and South American selections and the menu of classic Brazilian cocktails like the caipirinha, Texas de Brazil is a destination where guests can immerse themselves in a dining experience, rather than just a place to have dinner. The upscale chain, which is based in Dallas and has eight locations throughout the United States with a ninth slated to open in Chicago in November, features an all-you-can-eat selection of 15 grilled meats that are prepared and served in the churrascaria tradition from the plains of southern Brazil and Argentina.

Texas de Brazil is emerging as the premiere churrascaria in the United States, reflecting a tradition started long ago in a region of Brazil called Rio Grande do Sul. Churrasco is the Brazilian way to prepare barbecue, and churrascarias are restaurants dedicated to serving meats in the churrasco way.

Most of Rio Grande do Sul is covered by the pampas, which are wide, flat and grassy plains that favor the farming of cattle. The gauchos developed a precise way to prepare churrasco, incorporating the following elements: plenty of meat, few condiments (usually only salt, which was - and still is – an important component in feeding animals), a coal oven (wood was found everywhere, but gas wasn´t), a slow cooking process (gauchos spent long periods away from home, so they were not rushed); and tremendous skill with knives.

Gauchos called it churrasco, which is Brazilian Barbecue. Though this style of Barbecue wasn't based on smoke like that of the United States, it has all the traditions and elements of an American Barbecue. Churrasco started in the 16th and 17th centuries and spread throughout Brazil in the 1940s as the gauchos were found across the country.

Originally the standard formula for Brazilian style barbecue was to coat meats in coarse salt. The meat would then sit for about 30 minutes to absorb the salt before it was placed over the fire. Later, a saltwater baste was used to keep meats moist during cooking. Beef was typically never seasoned. Meats were situated on long sword-like skewers and cooked over an open fire.

Churrasco is more than a way of cooking in Rio Grande do Sul, it's a way of life. The barbecue capital of Brazil is the city of Nova Brescia, which boasts a statue of a man cooking barbecue in the central plaza. In the 1940s, the city had a population of about 150,000. Since then, the figure has dropped to 30,000 because to the mass exodus of people leaving to open barbecue restaurants across Brazil.

At Texas de brazil, before the meats arrive, guests are treated to cinnamon-sprinkled sweet fried plantains, garlic mashed potatoes and a two-sided coaster. In the Brazilian custom, guests signify their preferences by which side the coaster is on – green means go, and red means no. With savvy swordsmanship, the gauchos slice portions from skewers of picanha and garlic picanha (ribeye), filet mignon, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, beef ribs, alcatra (top sirloin), fradinha (bottom sirloin), cordiero (leg and rack of lamb), lombo (pork loin and Parmesan pork loin) costela de porco (pork ribs), linguica (Brazilian sausage), and frango (chicken legs and bacon-wrapped chicken breasts). Guests can have as little or as much as they want.

At the helm of the culinary ladder at Texas de Brazil is Evandro Caregnato, the corporate executive chef who is from the Rio Grande do Sul region. In his role, Caregnato instructs grill masters in authentic churrasco preparation techniques, trains meat carvers and develops menu items.

The churrascaria is familiar territory for Caregnato who learned churrasco from his grandfather; a restaurant owner in Brazil. Caregnato worked as a grill master when he was just 16 and opened his first restaurant at 19 before earning a bachelors degree in business administration from the University of Caxias do Sul, Brazil, and certification from the Scuola di Arte Culinaria Cordon Bleu Perugia in Umbria, Italy.

In 1997, when Texas de Brazil founding partners Salah Izzedin and his nephew, Salim Asrawi were planning on opening a churrascaria in the United States, they visited Brazil and found Caregnato’s restaurant. They talked and Caregnato agreed to visit Texas de Brazil headquarters in Dallas as a consulting chef. He became corporate executive chef in 2001.

Providing an authentic churrasco experience at each location is Caregnato’s main ambition.

“Wherever we open, we keep it authentic and traditional, in the same exact way it has been done for centuries in South Brazil,” he explained. “We will not serve variations or adapt the churrasco to any market.”

Carvers, Caregnato says, are essential to the churrascaria.

 “The carver, or meat server, is the most important and challenging position for any churrascaria,” he said about the team members that undergo an intensive six-month training program. “Our carvers are a mix of chefs and servers.

“They are chefs because they have to understand the complexity of cooking over an
open flame, how to control the heat from the natural charcoal and how to use the marinades,” he added. “They are servers because they are expected to give guests a pleasant experience with professional and attentive service.”


Media Contact:
Quantified Marketing Group

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