Chef Alex Atala Serves Ant Dessert, Aids Food Bank

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Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Alex Atala, left, speaking with Daniel Boulud at New York's Gotham Hall in May as they prepared dinner service at a fundraiser for the Brazil-based Pele Little Prince Research Institute. Atala often cooks for charity and last year launched ATA Institute, a nonprofit which promotes sustainable food practices.

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Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Alex Atala, left, speaking with Daniel Boulud at New York's Gotham Hall in May as they prepared dinner service at a fundraiser for the Brazil-based Pele Little Prince Research Institute. Atala often cooks for charity and last year launched ATA Institute, a nonprofit which promotes sustainable food practices. Close

Alex Atala, left, speaking with Daniel Boulud at New York's Gotham Hall in May as they prepared dinner service at a... Read More

Photographer: Sergio Coimbra/StudioSC/Phaidon Press via Bloomberg

Chef Alex Atala's pineapple topped with a sauva ant. Atala says diners who can get past the idea of eating an insect will enjoy its lemongrass-like flavor. Close

Chef Alex Atala's pineapple topped with a sauva ant. Atala says diners who can get past the idea of eating an insect... Read More

Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Alex Atala's ceviche of edible flowers with orange blossom vinagrette. Atala used locally-grown pansies, begonias, marigolds and other plants to create the dish. Close

Alex Atala's ceviche of edible flowers with orange blossom vinagrette. Atala used locally-grown pansies, begonias,... Read More

Source: Phaidon via Bloomberg

"D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients." Chef Alex Atala's new book documents the Michelin-starred restaurateur's use of unique local ingredients in his cooking. Close

"D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients." Chef Alex Atala's new book documents the Michelin-starred... Read More

Photographer: Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg

Alex Atala, chef and owner of D.O.M. restaurant, which ranks No. 6 on San Pellegrino's 2013 World's Best Restaurants list. Close

Alex Atala, chef and owner of D.O.M. restaurant, which ranks No. 6 on San Pellegrino's 2013 World's Best Restaurants list.

Photographer: Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg

Alex Atala, chef and owner of D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paulo. He will cook a meal Saturday at the New York Wine & Food Festival. Close

Alex Atala, chef and owner of D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paulo. He will cook a meal Saturday at the New York Wine & Food Festival.

How about topping a pineapple dessert with a lemongrass-flavored leaf-cutting sauva ant?

Chef Alex Atala wants diners to free their minds and consider insects as condiments. The recipe appears in his new book, “D.O.M. Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients.”

“We eat insects, and maybe we don’t know that. Honey is insect secretion,” said the tattooed and bearded Atala, 45, in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. “There is a clear mental barrier that I propose my customers to break through.”

Atala, who is in New York this week to cook a private dinner at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, has earned a reputation as a culinary trailblazer with his foraging for Brazil’s unique local ingredients and his redefinition of the country’s cuisine.

He’s on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. D.O.M., his restaurant in Sao Paulo, ranks No. 6 on San Pellegrino’s list of the World’s Best Restaurants (it was No. 4 last year). His $300-per-person private dinner at the festival tomorrow, “A Night at D.O.M.,” sold out quickly after tickets went on sale in May.

The dinner, sponsored by Bank of America, will feature some of Atala’s signature dishes such as heart-of-palm fettuccine carbonara and lime-and-banana ravioli.

“I’m super happy that chefs and critics are open to Amazonian ingredients,” said Atala, a former amateur boxer and disc jockey who discovered a love for cooking through a backpacking trip in Europe.

Charity Time

With his success, Atala makes time for charity. His treks in the Amazon introduced him to deforestation. He sends food regularly to indigenous people, including the Baniwa Indians.

“It’s my way to say to people, please it’s super important to try to give back,” Atala said.

This year, he traveled to New York to cook alongside Daniel Boulud and Daniel Humm at a fundraiser for the Brazil-based Pele Little Prince Research Institute that provides health care to children.

When he cooks Friday night, some of the proceeds will support the childhood hunger-fighting nonprofit Share Our Strength and the Food Bank for New York City, two of the festival’s beneficiaries.

Atala did a cooking demonstration in New York last week for Gastromotiva, a Sao Paulo-based program that teaches culinary skills to underprivileged young adults. He has hired some of its graduates.

Think Tank

Last year, Atala started his nonprofit ATA Institute, a think tank that promotes fair-trade practices in the Amazon region and aims to improve the lives of its residents.

“As chefs we can push boundaries in the kitchen and show that cuisine can be helpful not just for ourselves but also for our environment and the local people.”

(The Food Network New York City Food & Wine Festival starts today throughout Manhattan. Information and tickets: +1-866-969-2933 or http://www.nycwff.org.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on technology and Lance Esplund on art.

To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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