“Brazilian cuisine is a transformative agent, the missing piece that many people need to become an entrepreneur in Brazil and abroad. Gastronomy is useful to make social changes and to rebuild some people’s lives”, says Alex Duarte, founder of the project Padoca do Alex, which since 2016 has helped communities from Mozambique, Africa, to have food to eat and means to have an income. But how did it all start?
Alex got an IT degree, but has always enjoyed watching cooking TV shows. He fell in love with baking when he saw Luiz Américo de Camargo and Rita Lobo on TV. “I bought his book, Pão Nosso: Receitas Caseiras com Fermento Natural, and started to bake at home. Then I decided to go to São Paulo to take one of his courses. I was enchanted and have been baking since then”, he recalls. And who would imagine that a moment of relaxing at the couch could change so many lives?
Alex’s uncle is the director of a rehabilitation clinic for drug addicts. One day he received a call from Mozambique. On the other side of the phone was the head of the Ministry of Good Samaritan of the African country, Danilo Montana, asking for help. “But the clinic also depends on donations, so it was difficult to help with money. They had a long chat and my uncle decided to travel to Mozambique ”, he reports. After that first visit, in 2016, Alex’s family decided to help a local family of 13 people in the port city of Quelimane.
The following year, Alex decided to travel to Mozambique himself. “I got the idea of teaching those young people to bake. I put some recipe books Luiz Americo had given me in the luggage and went to the village”, he remembers. But some challenges made his idea a little harder to accomplish. “They didn’t have an oven or a place to knead the dough. We bought wood to build the furniture. To bake, we made a whole on the floor, put a clay pot inside it and surrounded the pot with charcoal. We also baked some loaves on barbecue sticks”, he says about his first trip.
To improve the local structure, Alex started a crowdfunding in his social networks to build a bakery. “We made a functional bakery in the middle of the village and used their products in the recipes: milk and coconut bagasse that used to be discarded, plus Mozambique flour”, he says. The idea was to feed the children and sell the bread to obtain funds for the sustainability of the project itself .
In June, Alex returned to Mozambique for the third time, but this time he went to Beira, the most affected city by the cyclone that passed through the country last March. “We will replicate the model there. I will stay for ten days,” he reveals.
Fortunately, it is not only in Africa that Padoca do Alex is making a difference. Here in Brazil, he is also working to implement the project in Bom Jesus da Lapa, in the hinterland of Bahia. The ovens are being built and Alex will give workshops on natural fermentation. The project will also be replicated in the rehabilitation clinic run by his uncle, because that’s where it all started after all.