The Gaucho Way
In a landmark building just steps from the theater district
in Philadelphia is one of the best and most exciting dining
experiences you’re likely to find this side of Brazil—Fogo de
Chão Churrascaria (pronounced “fo-go dee shoun”).
Guests rave about the restaurant, and the secret behind
Fogo is a team led by Leandro Benacchio, the head gaucho
chef. Benacchio has been learning the way of the gaucho since
he was a boy in southern Brazil. The gaucho way is to grill
meat on skewers over open pits of fire, which draws out all
the best qualities of a rich cut. The style is called churrasco,
and its proud tradition derives from the campfires of South
American cowboys known as gauchos.
Benacchio has been working in Brazilian steakhouses for
nearly 20 years, and at Fogo de Chão for 13, transferring from
São Paulo to the U.S. when Fogo debuted its Atlanta restaurant in 2001. Before that, growing up in Santa Catarina, a
small state in southern Brazil, he watched his father work
the fires for Sunday barbecues. At 17, he moved to São Paulo
and started as a dishwasher in a Brazilian steakhouse, then
worked his way up to server and eventually gaucho chef. It
is that experience at all levels of the gaucho way that guides
Benacchio in Philadelphia. In addition to head gaucho chef,
he is the restaurant’s general manager and oversees every
aspect of what diners enjoy, including the tableside service
of the meats.
Beyond just plain delicious food,
customers and critics praise Fogo
de Chão for the fun dining experi-erence—there is plenty to eat and
plenty to see. The servers, dressed in
the traditional garb of the gaucho, are
also the chefs of the meat they serve.
They circle with skewers of picanha
(sirloin), lamb chops, filet mignon and
bacon-wrapped chicken, engaging
diners with friendliness and old-fashioned Brazilian hospitality brought
with them from the farms on which
many were raised in southern Brazil.
The promotion of these gaucho
chefs from Brazil to the United States,
like Benacchio himself, is part of the
Fogo philosophy of preserving and
sharing the culture of southern Brazil.
It is one of the keys to the restaurant’s
success in this country.
Food, especially meat, is the main
attraction here, but wine is of supreme
importance, too. In Philadelphia, not
only does it grace the menu, but it also
provides a significant contribution to
the decor as well, displayed proudly
in pleasing artistic arrangements on
the walls. The wine list is the winner of
consecutive awards of excellence from
Wine Spectator magazine since the
restaurant opened in 2006. Fogo takes
special pride in stocking wines from
around the world, including France,
Italy, Spain, Australia, the United
States, and many widely admired regions of South America. Locations carry
between 200 and 300 labels.
Stop in for a true Brazilian experience in Philadelphia, and be sure to try
a slice of Benacchio’s favorite meat,
picanha, one of the most flavorful cuts
from his home in the south of Brazil.
Fogo de Chão • 1337 Chestnut St. • Philadelphia • 215-636-9700 • fogo.com