By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Organic food lovers in São Paulo are being treated to a new event this year focused on pizza, the Off Redondas food festival, which has been running since July 9th and ends on July 23rd, includes over twenty top pizza makers across the city.
A key organizer and commercial director is German expatriate, Matthias Borner, who has been involved in Brazil for over thirty years. He explains, “I first arrived in Brazil in 1985 with a student exchange program for one year only. I came back to do postcards with MiCA. That was in 1997 and for nine years.”
“Now I am living in Brazil for the third time and after three years working with conventional food at Restaurant Week I decided to do the Organic Food Fest – Off, a series of festivals and workshops to spread organics,” says Borner. “After concluding our 4th fine food festival with thirty restaurants in Rio and São Paulo we are now organizing our organic pizza event.”
The OFF festival asked restaurants to use at least fifty percent organics in every plate, but Borner explains that chefs usually prepare meals with 70-100 percent organic ingredients. In addition to the festivals they promote workshops on organics and on July 31st they are hosting the ‘Basic Knowledge on Organics’ at the Unibes theatre in São Paulo.
Borner explains how the organic food festival was conceived. “I grew up in an all organic household, but that was just normal to me.”
“My family grew a lot of fruits and vegetables in our own garden and we were used to buying at the local bio market and fairs. When I was working at the Restaurant Week festival I recognized, that organics were just in the very beginning in Brazil.”
He continues, “I met a highly engaged segment with a very high commitment to food security and organic concepts. It is a waterproof market. When producers gain the label, you can be sure that the merchandise is organic.” Indeed Brazil has seen a quick evolution in the market, with authentication groups operating to legitimize the producers.
As far as the festival this year, Borner shares, “This year we started to do workshops to bring more knowledge to the gastronomy, nutritionists and wholesalers.” He also adds, “Late October then we are having a OFF fine food festival in Rio and São Paulo with around forty restaurants.”
There is a fixed price for an organic small meal for R$49 and for the large pizza for R$79. Some of the participants in São Paulo are well known, like: Carlos, 1900, Speranza, Margherita, Graça di Napoli and many others listed on their website here.
For example Graça di Napolli, the pizzeria located in Santana, north of São Paulo, opened in June 2014, and has already been named best pizzeria in the city, according to the 2014 “Comer & Beber” award from Veja São Paulo, and best pizzeria in Brazil, for the 2015 Gula Award, one of the country’s top culinary rankings.