Bela Gil is a successful chef, presenter, writer and activist who promotes healthy, nutritious and sustainable diets. She recently opened Camélia Òdòdó, a sustainable plant-based restaurant in Saõ Paulo, Brazil.
Bela incorporates agroecology into its every aspect from sourcing local, seasonal and sustainable food to using natural plant-based dyes for the restaurant’s uniforms. She finds creative ways to mitigate food waste in her recipes and builds consumer awareness around sustainable healthy diets.
Camélia Òdòdó promotes biodiversity, locally sourced, seasonal and sustainably produced fruits and vegetables. When it’s not possible to source all ingredients locally, the restaurant’s diverse menu contributes to the bigger picture of encouraging the consumption and production of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The plant-based menu includes organic nuts and seeds from the Amazon. As Bela says, eating nuts keeps the tree alive, supports farmers and protects the forest. Rice and beans – a Brazilian staple – are sourced from the Landless Workers Movement (MST), the biggest producer of organic rice in South America, located in the South of Brazil.
Bela Gil’s vision nurtures the role of restaurants and chefs as socially responsible, forging and strengthening ties between major players in agri-food systems. By serving food that is not always easy to source, Bela shares knowledge on indigenous food varieties and sparks interest in the products she uses. Through her recipes, customers realise that tasty, healthy and environmentally friendly plant-based diets are possible. Her mission is to educate consumers about seasonal foods and some of the challenges faced by organic and small producers.
“Cooking food that tastes good is not enough. You are a link between the farmer and consumer. You have to do your job. Choose what’s best for everyone. Good food has to be complete. It has to be good for us as individuals, as a collective society, and for the environment.”
According to Bela, food is a means for positive transformation and a better future.
“Food and eating is a tool for transformation politically, economically, socially, nutritionally and environmentally. If people took food really seriously, we would be in a much better place. That’s what I’m trying to do in my work.”
As a food hero, Bela considers the important role of restaurants in acting as sustainable links between farmers and consumers, with the capacity to foster a bottom-up approach by shifting consumer attitudes towards food.