João Carlos Silva is a provocateur. He prefers not to call himself a chef, but rather a cook at the service of research and creativity in the kitchen, modifying old concepts without being afraid to take risks. A native of São Tomé and Príncipe, after growing up in a roça, a colonial house and hub of agricultural activity, he left the small island nation at a young age, exploring the Portuguese-speaking world, particularly Angola, his second home, but also North America and Europe. For 20 years he dedicated himself to learning, exploring and meeting whoever could help him develop his two great passions: art and cooking.
A feeling of saudade (an untranslatable Portuguese word meaning a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing) eventually inspired him to return to his country. Here, he established the São Tomé and Príncipe Biennial of Art and Culture and created the Teia d’Art association and CACAU – Casa das Artes, Criação, Ambiente e Utopias, a multi-purpose space where artists can put on exhibitions and dance and theatre performances, with training for young people and, most importantly, the aim of making the island’s inhabitants “proud to be from São Tomé,” transforming them into active citizens.
João’s preferred stage, however, is the Roça São João dos Angolares, an old country house that has been restored to new splendor. At this ecological and cultural tourism destination, the chef welcomes friends and visitors, serving them traditional dishes revisited without fear but also without excess, protecting and promoting the typical recipes of his country.
João has become famous thanks to the primetime television show Na Roça com os Tachos on broadcaster Rtp África, in which he shows viewers how to cook typical dishes using local ingredients. A few months ago, he was asked to cook at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to celebrate the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
A recent recruit to the Slow Food network, discovered after a trip to São Tomé, João shares the association’s philosophy. During Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, he will be preparing a typical dish for the Terra Madre Kitchen. Don’t miss this opportunity to sample his vibrant cooking!
Octopus with Roasted Bananas
Choose a good octopus. Even if you’d prefer not to, someone has to take on the task of beating it with a wooden stick or using some other kind of technique to tenderize it. Once this matter has been resolved, place it in a large pot along with garlic, salt, onion, tomato, peppercorns, whatever herbs you like, oil and red wine. After a slow, patient cooking, put everything in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Then cover with a layer of eggplant cut into very thin strips and leave to cook for a few more minutes. Serve with bananas roasted on the stove or in the oven.