Against racial and gender prejudices, Samanta Luz and Camila Botelho show flavors in the kitchen
This July 25 is Black, Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day. Here in Brazil, the date marks the National Day of Tereza de Benguela, leader of Quilombo Quariterê and responsible for commanding the largest community for the liberation of enslaved blacks and indigenous peoples in the current state of Mato Grosso.
In honor of the date, taste spoke to two women, black, chefs and specialists in vegan gastronomy, who overcome gender and race prejudices with great gusto.
Chef, communicator and researcher, Samanta Luz approached gastronomy by chance. In 2012, she had her first contact with plant-based cooking, when she had to change her diet and lifestyle for health reasons. “I began to be very interested in passing this on to people, so that they too could have the benefits I had with a basic, cheap and healthy diet,” says the chef.
Through courses and recipes posted on the internet, Samanta began to share what she learned in her studies with others. “I ended up migrating to the gastronomy area, mainly, to convey health information, which is still what keeps me going with my job,” she explains.
Health is what inspires Samanta Luz in the kitchen. Making a dish that is healthy and nutritious – as well as beautiful and tasty – is the chef’s goal when she creates new recipes. “I think vegetables inspire me a lot. I see vegetables and I can immediately create different things,” says the chef.
Despite discovering the various benefits of plant-based food, chef Samanta Luz says she has encountered more racism in vegan cooking than in traditional cooking. “I realized vegan events don’t include black people.”
Against this prejudice, Samanta works to make veganism possible and accessible for black people through the use of cheap ingredients and simple recipes, such as curried plantains, a recipe which, according to the chef, refers to her ancestors. “It’s a dish that brings a little bit of Bahia, my whole family is from there. I add coconut milk and palm oil, which bring me this ancestral thing, in addition to the plantain, which is very easy to find in Bahia,” she shares.
Camila Botelho’s entry into gastronomy was similar. 10 years ago, the chef started her life in the kitchen with a delivery space in São Paulo, focused on preparing dishes for people with intolerances and allergies to certain types of foods. Demand grew and Ca Botelho decided to study more on the subject. It was then that she came across the food plant based.
“Plant-based food is exciting from the moment you discover the versatility of a vegetable, that sweet potatoes can become a brigadeiro, beans can become a brownie, and zucchini can become a chocolate cake. The plant world always delights and surprises me,” she says.
This passion has led Ca Botelho to innovate by creating the vegan blind dinner. The project promotes a sensory experience for guests while bringing plant-based cuisine to more people and helps social projects, as part of the money is raised for various causes. “The sales dinner already existed, but bringing it into the vegetable universe was an absolute novelty,” comments Ca Botelho.
The dinners are divided into five times. Guests are blindfolded before the dishes are served. For a complete sensory experience, the chef indicates whether the tasting should be done with the hands or with cutlery. The latest edition was held in Italy and brought together 50 guests. Part of the proceeds was donated to families who were victims of the rains and floods that hit the city of Cesena.
But going abroad has not been an easy path. As a black woman, Ca Botelho says it’s still hard to be seen as an authority, especially when it comes to veganism. “They think black people have no right to good food and healthy food choices,” says the chef.
Among the different dishes served by Ca Botelho during blind dinners, is the jackfruit cake with caramel in wine, a delicious sweet and sour appetizer to welcome friends and family home.