I was quite pleased to be invited to interview the General Manager/Head Gaucho Chef Marcio Welter at Jacksonville newest specialty dining restaurant Fogo de Chao. Slated to open November 13th located at Town Center Boulevard and Lake Island Drive in the upscale St. John’s Town Center. Spoiler alert the building is magnificent.
I understand you were born and raised in Santa Helena a small town in Brazil in the gaucho culture. Please tell us about your youth and explain to our readers what comprises the Gaucho Culture.
A Gaucho is anyone who is born in the South of Brazil and raised within that culture. The Gauchos of Brazil have formed a culture of their own, complete with its cuisine and a personal love of the land of South America. Training begins when the children are very young, learning how to prepare and cook the meats. The father teaches how to make the Churrasco, a term referring to beef or grilled meat. Since I was a little boy, I grew up with that style, and the Mama always teaches how to prepare the salads.
How about your culinary training, is there a formal Churrasqueiro training and if so was that available to you?
For me no, I never went to any school to develop the cultural traits. I know they do have those schools today, but each family has its style that is passed on from generation to generation. We also have a tea called Chimarrão that we drink every day and is very traditional.
How did you get started at Fogo de Chao?
I was a “farmer boy” so I knew everything from the farm. To go into the restaurant, you have to understand how to serve the patron inside the restaurant. I started at Fogo de Chao in Brazil when I was seventeen years old, working as a cleaner for six months and then moved to the kitchen to butchering, cooking and then serving.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
It will be 20 years this December that I have been cooking professionally. Before that, it was with only families.
As general manager and head Gaucho Chef, what is your usual routine?
It’s a long journey, as the GM it is to be aware that everything is going well. You need to come and see if every position requires additional staff, or perhaps extra team members some time it means I have to go fill in. Ther are always people scheduled to prepare for the next service. With the new staff, we are doing quite a bit of coaching and teaching.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to food and the restaurant?
First thing, I love what I do. I am passionate about Fogo, about the guests.
What do you like most about your job?
I like to serve the people, to make them feel welcome and happy every time.
What do you do for fun?
I like to watch soccer; I am a big soccer fan, I’m Brazilian we love soccer. I spend time with my family, cook meat at home and drink a beer or a glass of wine
Where is your favorite place in the world?
I have not been to many places, but the U. S. is by far the best country and the best place to be.
What is your “Death Row Meal”?
A nice slice of Picanha, Fraldinha, and some lamb chops.