How São Paulo’s Corrutela Made Sustainability Cost Effective
Alice Waters disciple Cesar Costa's restaurant is making, healthy, nutritious, and delicious food for accessible prices.
“I picked the location of Corrutela based on this,” said Cesar Costa, the chef of the São Paulo restaurant, as we stood in front of the Feira Livre, the farmers market in Vila Madalena.
The market was walking distance from the restaurant, so he didn’t need deliveries for most of the produce. He and his staff could just walk over and pick what looked best and buy only what they need, when they need it. That was just the start.
“These days you have to spend so much money to run a restaurant,” says Costa. “Chefs don’t like to talk about costs and saving money. We talk about the romantic side of food, but we can also talk about how we can make this industry more profitable. I’m really open to this.”
Costa’s resume reads like a who’s who in the world of sustainability. Before opening Corrutela in 2018, he spent several years abroad working with Alice Waters in San Francisco, Christian Puglisi in Copenhagen, and British forager Miles Irving. When he designed Corrutela, sustainability wasn’t just a means of minimizing his environmental impact but making the restaurant accessible. The result is a menu, which changes near daily, where organic ingredients are being served at less money than regular ones, yet doesn’t read like a list of food scraps.
“It’s quite a beautiful challenge,” says Costa. “I think other restaurants should be doing this.”
Despite the restaurant’s sustainability ethos being off the charts, you probably won’t realize it after a meal there. There’s nothing written on the website or on the menu that mentions the restaurant’s energy efficiency. There is a conscious effort being made by the staff to sell food, good food that can make the neighborhood happy, and not simply selling the idea of being sustainable. Behind the scenes, this is what is going on:
A 30-kilo composter, tucked away beside the hostess stand, recycles the few ingredient scraps they cannot find a use for on the menu and the restaurant opts to use primarily reusable containers, which has cut out a significant amount of packaging waste. Their trash is so minimal that the municipal collectors aren’t even sure what to charge them. “It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, but in the city of São Paulo we have 22 million people in here,” says Costa. “It makes a lot of trash. A restaurant like Corrutela would need to spend 3,000-6,000 reais a month for a company to come remove the organic waste, cardboard, and plastic. Here we separate everything and compost the organic waste. We just rent the machine.”
“The investment will pay for itself in 4 or 5 years and it will last us 25 years, at least,” he says about the solar panels on the restaurant’s roof, which keep his energy bills low. Additionally, an Israeli-made dishwasher ensures minimal water usage.
In abandoned green spaces in Vila Madalena, Costa and his team have planted leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits that they can pick when ripe.
House Milled Corn and Grain
Using a nineteenth century soapstone mill from Minas Gerais, the restaurant mills wheat for bread and corn for polenta. “All of the other restaurants in the city paying 10-12 reais on the flour,” he says, “We are paying just two for the grains.”
House Made Chocolate and Butter
“Others pay 120-140 reais for chocolate. We pay 25 reais for the beans.” They get good high quality, organic sugar for a good price for the chocolate, and great quality cream for butter and ultimately, they save money and can serve a better product.
Rua Medeiros de Albuquerque, 256
Vila Madalena, São Paulo, Brazil
+55 11 3032-2443