I am in Lapa, a trendy neighbourhood in Sao Paulo, on my way to have dinner at David Hertz’s place.
David is the founder of Gastromotiva, a not-for-profit Brazilian organization that trains people from underprivileged backgrounds to become professional cooks and start their own community food businesses. Gastromotiva was founded 10 years ago as an NGO, but now David has told me he wants to turn it into a sustainable business that no longer depends on donations but becomes a profitable social enterprise.
As I arrive at his place, David is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. “I’m going to let you sample some of my new recipes,” he says after our usual exchange of big Brazilian hugs. I sit down at the kitchen table and watch him chop and mix ingredients as he tells me about his plans.
“After 10 years I feel it’s time to take it to the next level,” he says. “I want to get into business but I want to do it in my own way, with the aim of doing good in the broadest sense of the word.
“I think the time is ripe for it here in Brazil: we’ve seen a tremendous development in gastronomy in the last decade and today it is extremely valued as a business, a career and a cultural expression, especially in the major cities. So this is our time!”
“But how will your business distinguish itself from other food concepts, what makes it different?”
“Well our school aims to teach in a reverse way, not the French way of showing you how to cut an onion. It is about how you cook, how you behave. It is about more than just preparing food: what I teach in Gastromotiva is how to dream.”
“Ok, that still sounds quite abstract to me,” I say. “If you’re turning Gastromotiva into a business and a brand, you will need to build a strong business plan and identify your brand values.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve been working on that,” says David with a smile as he hands me a small bowl of pear, walnuts, Roquefort and radicchio risotto. “Taste that,” he adds, before continuing:
“The core values of the Gastromotiva brand are simplicity, honesty, accessibility and respect. Our main goal is to promote social transformation. We aim to use food as a tool to create possibilities.”
“”Delicious,” I say as I scrape the last bites out of the bowl. “What kind of possibilities?”
“We work on two distinct levels: first, we aim to offer people with little perspective in life but a strong connection to food the chance to have a profession that they are proud of, earn more and offer quality food to their family, friends and clients.
“Second, we also want to make the hospitality food chain rethink their responsibility. We are creating a network of actors in the market and we want to mobilize them to make their processes more meaningful and humanized.”
“Interesting, so you’re actually targeting a very broad audience,” I say.
“Absolutely,” says David as he pulls a beautiful golden onions and parmesan quiche out of the oven. “The secret of the brand’s success lies in the creative process of bringing together players from different sectors and social classes to generate awareness of a great cause and in that way achieve real social transformation.
“And with that,” he says as he places the dishes on the table with a flourish, “dinner is served! Let’s eat!”
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