January 2018 From Sao Paulo slum to WEF chef

Diego Santos cooks for world leaders after help from Gastromotiva

Photo: Angelo Dal Bo

A young chef who faced a difficult childhood after his father left home, has overcome adversity to train as a chef and will cook at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

At the age of 10, Diego Santos was forced to grow up fast – as his mother worked two jobs, he took care of the cleaning and kitchen at home. After jobs in supermarket and a bakery he started to dream of cooking but was disappointed by the high costs of culinary training. Luckily he stumbled across Gastromotiva – newly set up by chef and social entrepreneur David Hertz to provide kitchen education and professional training.

After working in a number of restaurants, he became a partner of a vegetarian restaurant in Sao Paulo and eventually got a scholarship to study Gastronomic Sciences, at the University founded by Slow Food in Italy. Now, after three years in Europe he is about to graduate – but first will cook for the first Social Gastronomy Catering service, serving food at private meetings and outside the World Food Programme tent.

"I left Brazil with an impression of the world that was not real. During this time, I traveled through seven countries, I lived with people from more than 70 countries, and I had the opportunity to face other cultures and other types of gastronomy. From all this diversity, I learned that a good dish is not one full of techniques and details but one that reflects who you are without words. Today, I understand that food is culture and education is power."

Diego intends to return to Brazil to work in Refettorio Gastromotiva, in Rio de Janeiro, and share with new students what he has learned and his dreams of new forms of urban agriculture adapted to the realities of the slums.

Read more about David Hertz and Gastromotiva: