Social Encore: Prepping for Brazil

Aug. 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

With my Brazilian trip pending, I wanted to get in tune with the country’s culture and so why not explore its sports and food? I knew two people who could educate me on both: MMA instructor Chris Templo and Brazilian restaurateur Andres Moares.

After Brazil’s disappointing performance in the World Cup, I thought it better to concentrate on a Brazilian sport I’ve always been fascinated with, jiu-jitsu. (Did I mention I’m a former high school wrestler and mixed martial arts fan?)

Luckily Ju-jitsu practitioner Chris Templo invited me to roll around on the mats at his Kaimuki studio to get a little taste of what jiu-jitsu is all about.

“If there are a few things that Brazil is known for, jiu-jitsu is definitely one of them,” said Templo.

Jiu-jitsu is a combat sport that emphasizes grappling and ground fighting. A man credited with creating Brazilian jiu-jitsu is grandmaster Helio Gracie. The Gracie family has pioneered the sport throughout the world and Templo was fortunate to begin his jiu-jitsu journey with Relson Gracie, the grandmaster’s second oldest son.

Templo is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is now training mainly under Nova Uniao professor Leandro Nyza. He also holds a black belt in kempo karate, training under master Brian Wong. Templo says that as with any martial art, dedication and patience are required to learn jiu-jistsu over the course of many years. Training under the Gracie umbrella is not easy but he says that it is worth it.

“No matter how long or how often I train with the Gracie family, I’m always learning,” said Templo. “There is always something new to learn with Relson.”

Templo continues to fly annually to the mainland in order to participate in two-week training camps with members of the elite American Top Team gym. Templo shakes his head remembering the rigorous all-day training sessions that helped mold him into the jiu-jitsu practitioner he is today.

“It was, like, wake up and start training immediately. The only time you stop is for a meal and to let that meal digest,” he said. “But even when we were digesting, we were studying the moves on the mat and then we would get up again and train till it was night out.”

According to Templo, there are two different types of jiu-jitsu athletes: There is the competitor and the life-long practitioner. Competitors train specifically for a controlled environment ruled by time limits, weight classes, and a point system. Life-long practitioners commit to learning the logistics and culture of the martial art, and train for their entire lives.

When I trained with Templo in a couple of his jiu-jitsu classes, it sure brought me back to when I used to wrestle. From the warmsups to the drills and sparring, it’s definitely something I want to consider practicing. The sport gives you a great workout, teaches you skills you can use in real life and also teaches you practical self-defense moves.

Now, after a great class of ju-jitsu you work up an appetite. Tropical Tribe restaurant owner Andre Moraes is a Brazil native who was born and raised in the city of Sao Paulo. He moved to Hawaii on a student visa in 2000 to study English. After six months of studying, he had planned on moving to England to obtain his master’s in economics. However, he fell in love with Hawaii and saw a lot of business opportunities. Moraes took the money he saved up to earn his master’s studies and started his own business, Tropical Tribe in the Discovery Bay center.

“I worked for a big corporate business in Brazil but in the end, I’ve always wanted to open up my own business,” he said.

He says that acai has always been a big thing in Brazil. The hype surrounding the acai berry made its way into the United States and is a very common healthy option at Hawaii eateries. Moares says the acai berry can be found in the northern Amazon and that tribes started to harvest the berry after they realized its nutritional value.

For your acai bowls at Tropical Tribe, you can choose between a small ($5.50), regular ($7.50) or large-sized ($9.00) bowl.

The acai bowls are blended with guarana juice and topped with a selection of your choice:

>> Standard (granola, banana and organic honey)

>> Premium (granola, banana, blueberry, strawberry and organic honey)

>> Tropical (granola, banana, organic honey and bee pollen)

All the bee products are from the Big Island. I ordered a regular-sized Tropical acai bowl. It tasted different from any other acai bowl I’ve ever had. The acai is a lot darker and Moares credits the grade of the berries. The bowl is made by a Brazilian native and prepared in the traditional way. How can you go wrong with that? It is totally worth a trip to Waikiki.

Moares also mentioned a very popular, creamy Brazilian cheese called catupiry that was made popular by an Italian immigrant, Mario Silvestrini. The cheese is made out of a combination of cheeses, sour cream, salk and milk. Catupiry cheese can be found in pizza recipes and as a spread for crackers and bread.

He makes it daily for his pizzas. Out of the six pizzas Tropical Tribe offers, I think that you can’t go wrong with the savory Portuguesa pizza. It is a thin-crusted pizza topped with catipury cheese, mozzarella, smoked ham, onion and egg.

Moares says he misses the parties in Sao Paulo but most of all he misses the food, especially the coxinha, Brazilian-style croquettes. It is made out of potatoes and catupiry cheese and is sometimes mixed with meat. They are then deep-fried.

“Since Sao Paulo is a major city, it is surrounded by a lot of countryside farmers,” said Moares. “The ingredients come into the city on a daily basis and are ripe and fresh.”

Check out the video above to see what else the two had to say.

Stay tuned to Honolulu Pulse as I give you details of my Brazil adventure. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram as I share snap shots of what I’m eating, doing and experiencing.

Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multifaceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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