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Chef Alex Atala of Brazil honoured with lifetime achievement award

Chef Alex Atala of Brazil honoured with lifetime achievement award

Posted by Juan Gavasa on August 14, 2014

Chef Alex Atala, credited for reviving Brazilian gastronomy and restoring pride in the country’s culinary heritage, has been named the lifetime achievement award winner for Latin America by organisers of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

For years, the accolades from the international chef community have been coming fast and furious for the chef of D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paulo for introducing the world to native Amazonian ingredients like wild ants that taste like lemongrass and popularising local foodstuffs that, before him, were snubbed and looked down upon—foods like acai, pupunha (a palm fruit), cupuacu (a small melon-sized fruit with a creamy pulp) and pirarucu, a large white-fleshed fish.

But since opening the restaurant in 1999, Atala hasn’t wavered in his culinary manifesto to resurrect the flavors of Brazilian cuisine, scavenge the Amazon for new and exciting ingredients and introduce them to diners in a contemporary and masterful way.

“Alex Atala has not only led the transformation of Brazilian cuisine, but also been its global ambassador,” said William Drew, group editor of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, in a statement announcing the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Almost single-handedly, he has changed perceptions both in his own country and across the world.”

The award comes as little surprise, given Atala’s long list of honors, including a spot in the 2013 edition of the Time 100, which singles out the 100 most influential people in the world.

While the restaurant took second spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Latin America list last year—second to Astrid y Gaston in Lima, Peru --  The Daily Meal proclaimed D.O.M. the grand winner in its version of the best restaurants in Latin America for 2013.

“I feel very happy and extremely honoured to receive the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Atala in a statement.

“I hope that with this recognition, Latin America’s gastronomy gains a louder voice and that its strength is shown. I also hope that with this award, people see the power of ingredients to drive social change and, especially, that by structuring the food chain, it’s possible to place greater value on our culture and environment.”

Last year, Peru’s national hero and rock star chef Gaston Acurio was given the inaugural award, likewise for nearly single-handedly sparking a culinary and cultural revolution in his native country, not only with his restaurants but with a cooking school for the underprivileged.

Over the weekend, Peru was named the leading culinary destination for South America at the World Travel Awards South America, dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the travel world.

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