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Fogo de Chão chef interview and Brazilian celebration with recipes - part 1

Fogo de Chão has launched the Fogo Guide to Brazil: an online experience that shares the stories of influential writers, photographers and artists to give the world an intimate view of what makes the country truly special. Featured contributors include photographer Marcello Arrambide, Cesar Ovalle, Paulo de Valle, and others.

The guide also features stories told by Fogo de Chão gaucho chefs who were born and raised in Southern Brazil, where Fogo de Chão began over 35 years ago. To see the stories visit

In honor and celebration of this beautiful experince I interviewed local Baltimore Fogo de Chão general manager and head gaucho chef, Jair Cavagnolli.

Jessica Lemmo: Did you cook growing up?

Jair Cavagnolli: "Yes. At an early age, my father taught me churrasco, the art of cooking meat over open pits of fire. Being from Southern Brazil, I was immersed in the gaucho culture, and currasco was a very important part of our customs."

JL: What made you decide you would become a professional cook?

JC: "I developed a passion for currasco-style cooking growing up. Looking back, I believe that watching my father’s immense passion for this cooking style left a lasting impression on me."

JL: Where you were trained and how difficult was your training?

JC: "The majority of my training occurred on our family’s farm as I was growing up. At first, it was extremely difficult, mainly because the fire was so hot and I sometimes burned myself."

JL: Would you do it again?

JC: "Yes, without a question. Churrasco is a huge part of the rich traditions that my family held back in Southern Brazil."

JL: What is the best part about the job?

JC: "At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than hearing our guests having fun and enjoying their food. One of the reasons why I was always drawn to Fogo de Chao is its unprecedented attention to outstanding service."

JL: Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

JC: "Don’t cut corners – use quality ingredients and take the appropriate amount of time for preparation."

JL: Favorite kitchen gadget?

JC: "A sharp gaucho knife. At Fogo, we use Tramontina Passador knives, which are made in Brazil. I was first provided a knife on the farm by my father. He taught me at a young age how to responsibly care for and use the knife for farm duties and churrasco cooking. The knife is an important piece of tradition when growing up on a farm in Southern Brazil."

JL: Favorite food to cook with?

JC: "Picanha, our house special. It is a prime cut of the top serlion, and is very popular in the churrascarias of Southern Brazil."

JL: If you were to write & publish a cookbook what types of things would you include?

JC: "Barbeque skewers or Churasco, the traditional southern Brazilian cuisine."

JL: When at home, what do you like to eat?

JC: "I enjoy pasta-based dishes that often include steak with fresh vegetables."

JL: Which item in your home refrigerator would you least like to cop to?

JC: "Frozen pizza and ice cream"

JL: In your opinion, what are the most important elements when creating a recipe from scratch?

JC: "In my opinion, the first and most important element when creating a recipe from scratch is to know who you’ll be sharing it with. Only then, should you begin to create. My joy in cooking stems from pleasing the ones I’m sharing meals with, so I always try to keep their tastes and preferences in mind."

JL: What’s your favorite music to play in the kitchen?

JC: "Traditional Gaucho music of Southern Brazil."

JL: Best meal you have ever eaten at a restaurant? (Chef/Where/etc)

JC: "Baltimore has so many wonderful places to dine, but my most favorite as of late has to be the filet mignon with sauce at Talara on President St."

JL: What’s your favorite meal?

JC: "Any pasta-based steak dish is my absolute favorite."

Since Fogo is spreading the Brazilian spirit, it wanted to share its authentic Fogo Caipirinha, Superfruit Lemonade and Peruvian Sunset recipes for you to enjoy - see part 2 of the interview coming soon!

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