De Vorm Pod Sessions | Alex Atala

Where to start when you are introducing Alex Atala? He is a writer, starring in Netflix Chef’s Table, owner of several world-renowned restaurants, one of the 100 most influential people on the planet according to Time Magazine, two-star Michelin chef and founder of the Ata Institute. But that is not all. Alex is a Brazilian chef before anything else and overall nice guy with original ideas on food and the role it plays in the world. We sat down with him for our De Vorm Pod Session to talk about the new luxury, simplicity and of course food.

Food is more than feeding

‘The cross-line between nature and culture is food. My first commitment is to serve something delicious. But if I’m able to push the boundary and make people reflect and think about what food is, it is something more.’

Fortunately for most people, eating is not about surviving anymore. It is about enjoying themselves and having a good time. Food nowadays is cooler, more trendy, it is much more interesting. It is fascinating what a meal can do.

For example, Alex serves a small piece of pineapple with 1 ant on top. At first, people are afraid to put the ant in their mouth. It is a cultural block. But they do. They take a deep breath and eat the ant. After a while, they start laughing, smiling and talking. How beautiful and powerful is the tiny ant? This is fascinating. First they feel fear but in the end, they are smiling. It is like a roller-coaster.

‘The best place to eat French food is France.
The best place to eat Brazilian food is Brazil, it is very simple!’

But food and the food chain also have a big impact on the world around us. So it is better to eat local. In that way, you can support native people and small producers. Not only economically but also give them a sense of pride. That is why Alex only works with ingredients from Brazil. Some ingredients are never used in food before and he discovered them himself in the Amazon forest.

Nature conservation is not only protecting the sea, the land, the river. It is about protecting mankind who lives of the sea, the land and the river. And the food chain can be a powerful tool to support the environment.

Sensation is every detail

‘Worse than having a bad meal, is having an amazing meal
with someone who is a pain in your ass.’

The restaurant is an experience of course. So everything is working together to compose a good dining journey. In an elegant way, Alex tries to bring the beauty of the primitive art that Brazil has to the restaurant. It is 100% Brazilian but without the bayana’s singing samba. There is something from the Amazone, something from indigenous people, something from small communities.

Opposites attract, that also goes for Alex’s restaurants. On the one hand you a beautiful piece of the Kalabaca tribe. On the other hand, you have an Oscar Niemeyer design or a chair. In this way, Alex is showing the beauty and diversity of the Brazilian culture.

‘Temperature, music, sensations, your chair. We try to push all the little details a little bit further.’

The new luxury

‘What is luxury nowadays? Comfort!’

Comfort is a very important word for Alex. In the 80’s fine dining and chefs started coming up. Also around that time, the Wall street phenomenon came up. Luxury in that time for a young guy, a yuppie, was having an expensive watch, a big costume, a supercar and going to fancy restaurants.

What is luxury nowadays? Comfort. There are still young people that make a lot of money, but they don't need watches or a big suit. They need to feel fine and comfortable. It doesn't matter where they are. Our restaurant understands this. Being and making people happy and comfortable, that is the new luxury.

Keep it simple

‘So inventing is much more near deception and disaster than geniality.’

According to Alex, there is a difference between creativity and inventing. Being creative is working on a very regular basis doing things that everybody does in an unexpected way. Inventing is doing something that nobody has done before. So inventing is much more near deception and disaster than geniality.

‘For a chef, the biggest challenge is not only being creative but being simple. Simple is complex. Simple is not easy at all.’


About De Vorm Pod Sessions

Pod Sessions is a series of interviews with prominent creators and thinkers of our time. They share their thoughts on workplace design, the essence of art and the creative process. The interviews take place in our Pod PET Felt Privacy Chair.