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Gracian de Souza: From Mexico to Goa

This Mumbai-based chef carries Goa in his heart even as he experiments with new cuisines and dining formats

Gracian de Souza.
Gracian de Souza.

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Gracian de Souza is a Mumbai-based chef who has worked across star hotels and is the man behind the now-shuttered Goan restaurant Porto & Poie. He has also served as a consultant across a range of culinary projects, the newest being Loca Lucho, a Mexican food delivery service based out of Khar. Although he is trained in European cuisine, de Souza’s biggest inspiration comes from his home state of Goa. The chef is most happy while handling a good cut of pork and rendering it in a Goan-Portuguese style dish. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What attracted you to this new format (a cloud kitchen which operates on a delivery-only model) and Mexican food?

Both these things were new for me. I liked the idea of doing a backend kitchen and although I hadn’t worked with Mexican food before, I was intrigued by the idea of chipotle, the smoked jalapeno sauce, as well as the Chipotle Mexican Grill, the chain of American fast food restaurants that specializes in burritos and tacos. It serves food that is very different from authentic Mexican fare as well as Tex-Mex cuisine and is directly inspired by the Mexican-inspired food that became popular in San Francisco in the 1960s. And that is what we are doing at Loca Lucho—Mission-style burritos flavoured with chipotle sauce.

How would you describe your cooking philosophy?

For me simplicity is perfection and that is the way I have always cooked. I believe in using fewer good quality ingredients and I never want more than four integrated elements on a plate—the protein, sauce, starch and garnish. This idea is in keeping with the short menu at Loca Lucho. I’d rather have fewer items and do them well rather than have a long Bible. This works within the cloud kitchen format and also allows us to play around with special menus based on seasonal fare and customizations.

What is your favourite protein to cook with? And what are you experimenting with at the moment ?

It has to be pork. A recent pop-up that I did in Goa earlier this month saw a lot of experiments with veal tongue and octopus. I also worked on a dish that combined the flavours of a Goan classic, the pork amsol and the traditional Portuguese Alentajana-style pork.

What is your favourite Goan dish?

For me it’s a dish called bouch that my grandmother used to make. Today, it is only made in a few homes and combines pork stomach and intestines as well as blood into a delicious curry.

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