Mocotó case shows how elite ‘topzera’ perverted the concept of inclusion – 06/22/2022

A case study is the exchange of messages between Rodrigo Oliveira, chef and owner of the Mocotó restaurant, in São Paulo, and a former client named Sandra.

With the intention of giving a touch on one of the most awarded cooks in the country, the former client sent a message liked by prejudice when telling her disappointment in knowing that the much talked about restaurant was in Vila Medeiros, a “location so dangerous and precarious”, according to her.

Days before, Sandra went to the place with 15 other people. Everyone was scared of the neighborhood.

In the message, she made a point of saying, in capital letters, that she lived in Tatuapé, the new “center” of the nouveau riche in the capital of São Paulo, and that she was rooting for Oliveira to take his Michelin Guide venture there, a wonderful neighborhood full of good restaurants.

The message seemed unpretentious. Friendly even.

But between the lines it was possible to understand how a certain bubble of the Brazilian elite strives to buy and distort the concept embedded in the word “inclusion”.

Inclusion, for Sandra, involves an understanding of center and periphery in opposition. This center, even if it is not geographical (Tatuapé is the noble part of the east side), is where people like her live. There, as in a concession key, you choose who can or cannot enter and take part.

The message to the chef from a remote neighborhood in the North Zone was a kind of invitation. It was as if he were saying, “On this side of the wall and electrified fences, you are welcome and can serve us. It will save us the embarrassment of crossing the gap that separates our neighborhood from yours.”

Oliveira shared the message without exposing the messenger. And he made a point of making his response a public statement.

“It is precisely because there are people who still think like you that we continue to live and do business in Vila Medeiros. So, who knows, one day our neighborhood will be (even more) full of successful businesses and opportunities for the people who live here.”

Mocotó is a restaurant specializing in country food. What is now recognized as the 33rd best restaurant in Latin America, according to the British magazine Restaurant, began in 1973 as a sale of northern products founded by José de Almeida, Rodrigo’s father.

José was born in Mulungu, in the Pernambuco hinterland, and has been working in São Paulo since he was 25 years old. Your business is therefore about to complete 50 years. It must have been a few times that he bumped into the inhabitants of the “wonderful neighborhoods” during his journey.

At the height of the pandemic, the old house in the north became a distribution point for free lunchboxes for vulnerable people in the neighborhood – precisely those most affected by the consequences of the coronavirus. Those who have good neighbors have everything.

That restaurant has a piece of the whole of Brazil. There is a man from Amontada from Ceará who worked in the Air Force’s logistics sector and is now responsible for the Mocotó purchasing sector.

It has a master in history specializing in Brazilian eating habits who was born in ABC and today takes care of the restaurant’s communication.

There are people from Palmeiras dos indians, the city where Graciliano Ramos was born, in the interior of Alagoas, Lagoa do Itaenga (PE), and also São Paulo. There is even a “native of Vila Medeiros”.

The trajectory of the team members can be checked on the Mocotó website.

This broth of diversity made the restaurant become a reference and accumulate awards here and abroad without asking Mrs. Sandra’s permission. Inclusion in the end is this: thinking about other ways of being in the world.

Rodrigo Oliveira says that he was born and raised in Vila Medeiros, where he lives to this day, and it took him a while to understand that there were “other São Paulos” near and far. The truth, he says, is that inequality is as big as the city.

Guimarães Rosa once wrote that the sertao is the size of the world and is everywhere — including within us. The sertão is also in Vila Medeiros and dangerous and precarious is just the worldview of those who call themselves “the center” and spend their whole lives trying to digest their own arrogance.

About Hrishikesh Bhardwaj

Tv specialist. Falls down a lot. Typical troublemaker. Hipster-friendly advocate. Food fan.

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