homepage logo

Chef’s latin flavor & sound spicing up town

By Staff | Feb 20, 2009

Gregorio Lacerda is the chef at Stone Soup Bistro on German Street. Below, on guitar with Josh Stella at a recent Mecklenburg Inn Open Mic Night. Photo by Samantha Zurbuch

Great food, soulful music, paintings and graphic design are all part of artisan Gregorio Lacerda’s vast repertoire.

With a recently produced solo CD, a hot new Thursday tapas night at Stone Soup Bistro, and a growing catering and farmer’s market following, this talented Brazilian is adding spice to more than his famous tea recipe.

“Greg is just so generous, friendly … he has that fun latin spirit about him. He comes out of the kitchen a lot, you don’t always see that,” said Stone Soup beverage manager/waitress Annie Wisecarver.

When asked how he would describe his own cooking, the Stone Soup Bistro chef refers to his style as “Extremely creative. I love to play with food. I know a lot of flavors, veggies, and meats. I create my own style.” With international influences from Italy, Spain, the Middle East, Africa and beyond, Lacerda is constantly producing new, culturally inspired dishes.

Lacerda is from Joao Pessoa, Paraisa, Brazil, where he studied international cuisine at the Sebrae institution. He has also learned much from culinary literature, but cautions aginst cooking straight from recipes.

Gregorio says it was when he left his parents’ house that he decided to cook for himself. He wanted to do his own food, and ended up cooking for more people. He thinks of Brazilian food as very cosmopolitan. “Since the beginning, we have people from everywhere. It’s my blood.” He loves to pick out ingredients and mix them in new ways, forever ending up with a “new plate.”

In his young adult life, he spent 10 years working as a graphic designer and professional musician in Rio De Janeiro. While his day job kept him busy designing business logos, music was his outlet. His life as a musician during this period consisted of gigs at various bistros and bars. Getting his start by singing at mass as a young boy, Gregorio became an accomplished musician, winning a Rio songwriting contest in 1984.

It was when graphic design became more computer focused that Greg began to find the art too cold for his liking. He preferred hands-on production practices.

As a culinary entrepreneur who dreams of one day opening his own cafe or teahouse – where he envisions offering idyllically crafted artisan breads and cheeses – Gregorio is clearly an artist who pays great attention to detail. He points out that freshness and sweetness would be his keys to success at such an establishment. He doesn’t see himself working at a big restaurant; he prefers the intimate environment of a smaller place.

As far as advice for any new or aspiring chef out there, Gregorio offers, “Be simple, and never never outshine your food. Your food has to shine.”

Greg has lived in the U.S. since 2002 and has worked in Shepherdstown for three years. He has also worked in Baltimore and Harpers Ferry. He caters weddings and sells his culinary creations at the Shepherdstown Farmer’s Market, including empanadas, samosas, flan, fresh watermelon/lemon juice, passion fruit/fresh mint juice and tea.

Shepherdstown artist Tem Ahoa attended Gregorio’s recent Thursday night music gig at the Blue Moon Cafe. She makes his tea recipe for her friends, who constantly ask for it.

“It’s his music I love,” she said. “Everything is rather external. It’s just his joyful energy. I play it all the time when I work. You really don’t have to listen – it sort of floats through you. The only other CD I love to work to is Yo-Yo Ma.”

Gregorio plays live music around town at venues including the Blue Moon Cafe, Yellow Brick Bank, Stone Soup, and the Mecklenburg Inn. Most nights he performs with his fellow musician friends Josh Stella and Matt Lewis. His CD is available at his cousin’s shop, Hand of Fatima, on German Street, beside Kazu.

If you’re hungry for traditional Spanish cuisine, be sure to check out Gregorio’s tapas night every Thursday at Stone Soup Bistro from 6 to 10 p.m. Some tapas you’re likely to find on the menu include fried avocado, potatoes with chorizo, traditional pork ribs with wine and spice sauce and stuffed poblano peppers.

Gregorio’s musical and culinary passions feed off each other. He loves to do both scenes and sees them as part of him. Passion is so central to what he does each day, he says he would never fall into a profession where he couldn’t find inspiration. “If you do anything in your life and you like it, it just goes well,” he said. “I believe that if you don’t like it, please don’t do it.”

– See recipes, Page 7