Emanuel Valim, Chef de Cuisine, Wyndham Garden Manama, on his love for the flavours of his Brazilian homeland.

How did you first become interested in a life in the kitchen? Did you know from an early age that this was what you wanted to do?
My passion for the life in the kitchen started at a very early age. When I was young, I had a stool that I liked to place beside the stove, in the kitchen, to watch my mother cooking. The magic of how those ingredients were turned into very delicious food always fascinated me. The pictures of chefs on the covers of the recipe books inspired me. I really wanted to be a chef, I really wanted to be a man who enjoyed his work cooking tasty food and giving others the pleasure of enjoying great food.

You are currently head chef at the hotel’s Brazilian steakhouse, Via Brasil, and you say you were ‘Born and raised on the South American cowboy culture’ – what does this mean to you in terms of food?
In terms of food, when I say ‘I’m born and raised on the South American cowboy culture’, it means a lot. Where I come from, the way that we celebrate, meet with friends and receive visitors, is always by doing a churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), with happy music and good food. Also, I have memories of my travels to the countryside and the neighbouring countries, like Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, which bring me back to the ‘gaúcho’ lifestyle. Wake up early to milk the cow for the full table breakfast, work in the fields, ride a horse, prepare the things to gather after work to make churrasco, and many other things. This is reflected in my cooking style. For me, making churrasco is a happy time.

When diners visit Via Brasil, how do you communicate your Gaucho lifestyle to them through the menu and decor?
When diners come to Via Brasil, they can feel in the atmosphere the gaúcho culture; on the wall you find a bull’s head, the smell of churrasco is in the air, the buffet features recipes that have been passed down through generations and the meats are cooked exactly in churrasco style. The churrasco technique is credited to the gaúchos of the cattle ranching lands of the Rio Grande do Sul in the 1800s. After long days of herding cattle, they would gather their communities to enjoy a large meal of barbecued meats which they called churrasco. And at Via Brasil we do the same, we gather to enjoy churrasco.

What is your signature dish? What makes this dish popular?
My signature dish for sure is the Picanha cut [steak], grilled on a charcoal fire, using a technique that has been passed down through generations in my family. Picanha also is the most popular dish in the Brazilian steakhouse, because it is a very special cut, tender and flavourful. ✤