Teresa Corção

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2013

Citation

This profile was prepared when Teresa Corção was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Teresa is changing consumption patterns of Brazilians to counter the prevailing preference for industrialized food over locally produced food. A renowned chef with experience creating demand for new gastronomies, Teresa immersed herself in the culinary traditions of different regions of Brazil. She came to realize that, in general, their flavor and historical significance remain unknown to the Brazilian palate, despite being considered “gourmet” in limited circles. Teresa began recovering and raising the visibility of the national cuisine, presenting typical Brazilian dishes as part of a unique tradition and imbuing them with sophistication attractive to the growing gourmet market. Serving as a broker, she generates a renewed demand for native products once invisible to high end buyers. As a result, her approach increases the income and quality of life of small-scale producers who were previously unable to compete with agribusinesses. In the process, her work increases the self-esteem of producers by making their importance visible to a society that did not acknowledge them.

As a first step, Teresa gave particular attention to cassava (manioc). She saw the potential of this deeply Brazilian root vegetable to be a standard bearer, an exemplar of the many other rich possibilities posed by traditional Brazilian foods. In addition to promoting it as a staple food on all dining tables across the socioeconomic spectrum, Teresa focuses directly on the cassava producers themselves, organizing them into local producing clusters. She helps them in many practical ways. One is enhancing their place in society as they step up to represent a particular portion of Brazil’s native history and tradition. Through her efforts, Teresa has helped such native products once again become fashionable, which of course increases demand and prices. More demand at higher prices plus new respect is the small farmer’s dream. With success in the cassava market, Teresa is now turning her attention to other traditional foods in the Brazilian diet and their producers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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