A native of Goiania Goias, Brazil, Barreto left the jungle village after his parents divorced, and started a very different life as a cook in Miami's South Beach. "I saw China Grill [in Miami], and said to myself, one day I will work here," Barreto says.
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|Where: 1602 17th St. NW|
|Hours: Dinner daily, from 5 p.m. until closing|
But first, of course, he needed to develop some skills, so he started making sandwiches in a local sandwich shop. Much to his surprise, he discovered he was good at what he was doing. As fortune would have it, after graduating from a culinary school in Miami, he did end up working for China Grill, both in Miami and later in New York.
This has led to a number of culinary jobs from Zed 451 in Chicago as the executive chef, to D.C.'s Willard Hotel, where he worked with famed chef Antoine Westermann, to acting as a cooking consultant in Venezuela, then back to D.C. as a consultant for the Front Page restaurant group, and then to his current position at Floriana.
Like many of his culinary colleagues, Barreto can point to several sources for his inspiration: Asian techniques for color and height; French for clean precision; and Italian and Brazilian -- because these cuisines are so open to flavors. But probably unlike most chefs, Barreto has yet another source of inspiration: museums. "These are my cookbooks," he says. "I get the energy [from the art] and put it into my food and the flavor. When you get a dish of mine, you can see the techniques and the art."
For such an enthusiastic and passionate young chef, it seems he is doing this culinary thing alone without family support. His mother and family of 11 siblings are not terribly pleased with Barreto's career choice, he says. "She is a good cook," he says of his mother, "but my family does not support what I am doing. Where I come from, women do all the cooking. She wanted me to be a doctor, an anesthesiologist."
When faced with such familial disapproval, why did Barreto persist in following this career? "Others saw in me a potential, so I had to do something that was never planned," he says. Those who have tasted the braised short ribs in a wine and Gorgonzola cheese sauce can testify that Barreto is accurate when he says, "I cook my heart out."
What's your comfort food?
Any food made by me. Brazilian food, rice and beans. Beef Stroganoff, particularly the Brazilian version made with mustard, ketchup, filet, and potatoes, and served with wild rice. Fried armadillo with yucca flower served with rice and black beans.
Where's your favorite place?
Barcelona, Spain. It is so beautiful and I like the life and the people and the architecture.
Which chef do you admire most in the world?
Bobby Varua and Claude Troisgros. And chefs that I have worked with in the past.
What has been your luckiest moment?
When my first daughter was born. Then it happened again, because I have two daughters.
What is your signature dish?
The short ribs or orange-glazed chicken or barbecued alligator burger.
Braised Beef Short Ribs
10 pounds bone-in, untrimmed beef short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
Coriander seeds, to taste
Onion powder, to taste
Coarse Mediterranean sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground rosemary, to taste
Fresh thyme, to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 or 2 bay leaves
4 diced tomatoes
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 quart shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 quart crimin mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 quart oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 quart full-flavored beer
One # 10 size San Marzano crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 quart mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 heirloom tomatoes, cubed
3 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rub the meat with the herb-spice rub. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, and sear the ribs; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the bay leaves, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, mushroom, beer, and crushed tomatoes. Add the ribs; there should be enough liquid to cover the meat.
Slow-roast the ribs over night, or for at least 12 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. Let the meat rest in the liquid at least 5 hours.
Meanwhile, make the Gorgonzola Sauce: Take the braising liquid and reduce to one-10th the original volume; strain. In a separate pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms, tomatoes, and shallots. Deglaze that pan with the cream; stir in the Gorgonzola. Stir the reduced braising liquid, and season to taste with salt and pepper.