Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Portrait #68: Kenya's Gaucho

Last night we went for a celebratory dinner (I have a job!!!!!!! The impossible may have actually happened!) at my restaurant of choice. It's called Fogo Gaucho, and it's a typically Brazilian steakhouse (churrascaria). We call these places "rodízio" which means "rotation" because the entire meal consists of sitting at one's seat waiting for the waiters to circulate through the room with enormous skewers of different cuts of meat. Fogo Gaucho, for example, has more than a dozen cuts: five or six beef cuts, chicken, pork sausage and beef sausage, pork roast, prawns, crocodile, etc. etc. In addition, there's an extensive salad bar. It's pretty much heaven for someone who likes eating.

So when we were talking about going out for a fun meal, I didn't hesitate to enthuse about the idea of going to Fogo Gaucho. And it was good. It's been so long since I've been to a churrascaria, and was I was needing to stock up on my systemic meat reserves!

Partway through the meal, Fogo Gaucho's owner came over to greet us. He was dressed in typical "gaucho" clothing. Gauchos are basically Brazilian cowboys. They ride bulls and herd cattle. And they are the mastermind behind churrascarias. There is little room for disputing that the absolutely best meat in the world comes through gauchos (there's a bit of dispute whether Brazilian or Argentian gauchos do it better, though!). Gauchos wear super baggy knee-length trousers that gather tightly at the bottom, enormous belts, bandanas tied around their necks and shirts with a flair. All servers at churrascarias generally dress up as Gauchos. At Fogo Gaucho, even the owner himself dressed as a Gaucho, which is unusual, but was quite charming!

He's really made it in life, a rag to riches story. As a young man he moved to Sao Paulo from the south (where he probably was a real-life gaucho) to work as a server in a churrascaria in the big city. After five years doing that, he started travelling a bit and ended up opening up his own churrascaria. And let me tell you, his churrascaria has the best picanha (my favourite cut of beef) I have ever tasted!

The thing is... I'm not in Brazil. I'm not sure I could be any further away from Brazil. I'm in Nairobi, Kenya! So, picture this young man raised on a cattle ranch in a village in the south of Brazil, who then worked for five years as a server in a restaurant in the city. One day he picked up and travelled to Africa, all the way around the world, and opened his own restaurant here! I doubt he's educated past high school, if that. He seemed rather shy and quiet, and yet attentive to his staff of Kenyan fake-gauchos (all dressed up in the proper garb, of course! This was slightly amusing to me as most real gauchos are blond, and of course the Kenyan gauchos were far from blond). He's lived in Kenya for three years, isn't married, and has co-owned this restaurant chain (there are two of them!) for two years. He likes living here, is happy with his business, and figures Kenya will be his home for the rest of his life.

I love it when my worlds meet, and am just flabbergasted that the best picanha I've ever tasted (or at least among the best) is in Nairobi, Kenya!

1 comment:

LKBrazil said...

Que saudades! Mom and I tried to go to a new Churrascaria here in Amman today for lunch, but unfortunately, it doesn't open until April 1. So, for all those reading who might pass through Amman after April 1, check it out--Fire of Brazil on Mecca Street, near Medina Street.

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