A throng of friends, patrons and well-wishers packed Samba Montclair restaurant during the evening hours of October 17 to celebrate the launch of The Samba Montclair Cookbook: Authentic Home-Style Brazilian Recipes and Reminiscences, written by Brazilian-born chef Ilson Gonçalves.
The Meat of the Cookbook
In his debut as an author, Gonçalves shares his favorite Brazilian recipes—dishes that are served at his restaurant, Samba Montclair. The book features 42 recipes for home cooks interested in learning about Brazil’s food culture, which draws upon European, African and indigenous influences.
Recipe selections include Gonçalves’ take on Feijoada (Brazil’s national dish: a stew of beef, pork and beans), Camarão na moranga (creamy shrimp-filled winter squash), and Pão de queijo (gluten-free, homemade cheese bread). Gonçalves provides readers with step-by-step instructions for preparing these and other meals, along with photos of appetizers, side dishes, entrees, desserts and juices.
Early Cooking Days
As described in a press statement prepared for the event, Gonçalves first learned to cook by watching his mother and helping her peel carrots and potatoes in the kitchen of her neighborhood restaurant. From an early age, he dreamed of owning his own place, creating make-shift kitchens with friends in their tree houses.
“It was common for me to pick wild fruits for snacking and spend the day surrounded by natural beauty,” Gonçalves said of his childhood in the Brazilian southern state of Santa Catarina, as quoted in the press statement. “If I craved my favorite dessert, Bolinho de Mandioca (a coconut yuca cake), my mother would send me out to pick the root vegetable, which grew wild in our backyard.”
At the start of the recent reception, Gonçalves graciously thanked guests for turning out and then began autographing copies of his book. One enthusiastic patron, North Caldwell resident Mila Sabino, expressed her joyful support for Gonçalves’ efforts on the northern NJ restaurant scene, and said she is a loyal patron. “Ilson and I have been friends ever since he opened Samba Montclair,” she said. “The food here is wonderful. He’s the best.”
Samba Montclair is an intimate space in downtown Montclair—an Essex County town that’s been a magnet for numerous restaurant entrepreneurs during the last 20 years. The restaurant’s interior features subdued earth tones, a high ceiling, rustic wood-framed mirrors and drawings, hardwood floors, and an artistic collection of wall hangings: an ensemble of wooden cutting boards and brass pans, molds, colanders, and ladles.
Gonçalves came to the United States at age 23 and opened Samba Montclair in December 2010 as a deli featuring Brazilian specialties. Encouraged by the support of patrons, the business evolved into a bistro. The restaurant has been embraced by Brazilian natives and descendants in northern New Jersey, craving a taste of home, as well as by patrons who appreciate freshly prepared dishes, many of which offer gluten-free ingredients.
A graduate of Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, Gonçalves has appeared in New Jersey Monthly, The Star-Ledger and The New York Times and on various TV programs.
The Samba Montclair Cookbook
$39.95 (hardcover, 201 pages)
Published by A Life in Print Inc., Montclair, 2017
Available on Amazon.com.
7 Park Street
Montclair, NJ 07042
Stay tuned for a feature about Chef Gonçalves, soon on Jersey Bites.