Pedro Ferraz, the Head Chef of Wigwam on Abbey Street, sat down with MenuPages to discuss setting up a restaurant in Twisted Pepper’s former home, South American style, and why we should all be eating delicious chicken hearts!
Wigwam has been open for a few months now, how have you found it settling into Twisted Pepper’s former home?
Wigwam’s been the biggest challenge of my life you know. We have been talking about this project for more than a year with Bodytonic. We talked about South American style, rum and how the food can follow these ideas. Then I started to think on how I’m going to design the menu for this type of bar. It was a big challenge as I’d come from Spudbox which had only one item on the menu, just spuds with different toppings, but now we’re making food with a Brazilian influence here in Wigwam.
It must have been a challenge finding the right team and coming up with new food concepts?
Yes it was a big challenge because I didn’t know if people living in Dublin wanted to try new Brazilian flavours and products, but I wasn’t afraid. If you do something well you can convince them to buy it. You just need to guarantee the quality of the product even if it’s different, you need to make sure it has the right seasoning and be confident in what you’re doing. It’s a big challenge but we are very confident.
You are from Brazil, have Italian training and live in Ireland, how would you describe the style of food that you cook here?
That’s a really funny mix. To simplify this I’m going to say that it’s Italian heart, Brazilian flavours and Irish accent. That’s the style of Wigwam. It’s cool because it’s so true you know, it’s these three countries working together.
What influence has Ireland had on your cooking? Are there any Irish ingredients that you particularly love to cook with?
It’s not a big influence but I love to work with Irish ingredients because they are top quality. I love the cheese and meats, and love to support small Irish producers.
Some Irish people wouldn’t know the difference between cassava and acai, were you worried that some of your dishes would be a step too far, for example the chicken heart skewers?
Yes and no. They are new flavours for Irish people but if you do them right with the right seasoning then people will eat them. Chicken hearts are offal but there is nothing better than having them cooked and seasoned properly with a nice beer. It’s the perfect snack food.
Do you feel chicken hearts will be the next hot item to pop up on restaurant menus over the next year?
I think so because they are delicious, different, a little bit chewy, but the right seasoning is the way to sell them. They are really hard to find in Ireland as a lot of butchers will throw them in the bin. People don’t use them as much in Ireland, but when you kill a chicken you want to use the whole thing, not just the breast and the legs. For us in Brazil, they are so common. My father used to barbecue them and serve them with sauce or mustard and a beer. It’s all about not wasting food, they are so cheap, and it’s a chance to show Irish people new flavours.
I’m a big fan of chicken feet, will we ever see those on the menu?
They are delicious too!
Are there any ingredients or dishes that you would like to use in the future? For example, feijoada.
Yes. I love feijoada and the story behind it. It’s all about cooking with no waste, using left over’s of animals. It’s a black bean stew and we want to do this here every Sunday with caipirinha’s, good music, and friends. We want to start doing this for the summer.
Irish people are fond of stews so they should love feijoada as well right?
They will. There is some offal in the feijoada but they will love it.
Brazilians are known for having a sweet tooth and a love of things like coconut and dulce de leche. What advice would you give to baking lovers who want to add a Brazilian twist to their cooking?
I use a lot of coconut with my specials, we make a soup with sweet potato, coconut milk, ginger, and chilli, it’s a great combination. We will be doing some trials with coconut pannacotta and guava coulis on top, it’s very Brazilian as well. Starting from now we will be serving pao de queijo, it’s a cheese puff ball made from tapioca, with filter coffee when Vice closes. It will come with dulce de leche or guava coulis on top. In Brazil we drink filter coffee with pao de queijo, so we will be giving Irish people a taste of Brazil. We have coffee not just with sweets but with savoury as well. This mix of savoury and sweet together plus the filter coffee will give people an extra experience.
You are surrounded by great company with the likes of Vice Coffee, Boxcutter Barbershop, and a bar that serves over 100 rums. It must be handy working here knowing you can get a coffee and haircut before work?
Yes that’s true, in fact I just got my hair cut today at Boxcutter. I love when I’m on my way to work that I can get a latte from Vice Coffee. I love what they do, they have a lot of passion as well. It’s a great way to start my day with one of their coffees. This is a great spot to work at.
Do you ever plan on getting them to make you a latte with coconut milk?
I don’t know if this will ever work. But yeah it’s something that we can try.
It must be handy that you can have a few glasses of rum when the kitchen closes for the night?
That’s true. I use rum in my braised brisket. When the briskets done and I get all the juice from the tray, I start to reduce it with honey and rum, it gives the brisket an extra kick. I’ve been playing a lot with this bar as the kitchen is just beside it. I look at the rum shelf and beer taps, and use them to make a reduction with jalapenos, cinnamon, and herbs to see if it could be the next salad dressing. It’s good to have a bar beside your kitchen as it allows you to experiment.
Have you tried getting them to stock some bottles of cachaça?
Yes and they are doing it already. There’s a cocktail on the menu with cachaça. They are not trying to be a Brazilian bar but are taking influences from South America. Cachaça with barbeque or feijoada is amazing.
You serve desserts like rum and raisin ice cream and crème caramel pudding, but do the Vice barista’s ever try get you to change your desserts and use their coffee to make affogato’s, coffee mousse or tiramisu?
We haven’t talked about this before but it’s a good idea. I’m doing those types of desserts as we have loads of rum, and the crème caramel pudding is something that I love as it’s my Mom’s recipe. I want people to try it. It’s not like the traditional crème caramel, this recipe has my Mom’s touch. It’s an old school simple style.
With the restaurant still being young, what New Year’s resolutions did you wish for it and for yourself?
We finished our service and I opened a bottle of champagne with my staff in the kitchen, we celebrated and made a toast. This year’s goal for my kitchen and team is to make really good food but keep it very simple and casual, introduce new flavours to Irish people, but never try to be like a fine dining restaurant.
Fancy chowing down on chicken hearts, cassava fries, and braised brisket with a caipirinha?