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How This Black American Chef Thrives While Serving Soul Food In Rio de Janeiro
Living as an expat since 2015, Wilson decided to quit his job as a data analyst for a music distribution company in NYC to travel overseas.
“I have been travelling overseas since the age of 20 when I embarked on a study abroad program in Hong Kong. Since then, I have visited 22 countries, primarily in Asia, and lived in three. I lived in South Korea from 2009-2011, the Philippines from 2015-2017, and Brazil from 2018 until the present,” Wilson told Travel Noire.
Becoming a Black expat in Brazil was never part of his plan. But, after reconnecting with an old friend from NY who moved to Rio in 2010 and opened a business there, this Black American chef said that he considered visiting Rio for the first time.
“Our mutual hero, Anthony Bourdain, had just passed, and I reached out to him about it on Instagram. After getting back in touch, I made a quick decision to move here. At the time, I was considering travelling to either Mexico or Colombia, where I had zero connections nor a grasp of the language. I figured that if I moved to Rio I’d also have zero grasps of the language, but at least one close connection,” Wilson stated.
In Rio, he is able to do what he loves most— cooking. This isn’t his first run in the food industry. He actually started a food cart business in Manila in 2015.
Wilson and his wife Maíra Mattos, who is an Afro-Brazilian, started operating the food businesses at weekend street fairs in 2019. The acceptance from the public was beyond expectations, Wilson said. People formed lines to buy the authentic Black American soul food prepared by him.
“We are the only brand in Rio offering Black American soul food flavor. Our chicken is simply tastier than others in the market, as it comes from the source of fried chicken. Most food here is seasoned with only salt, garlic, and lime, and we definitely go way beyond that. I also have a seasoning business here, called Soul Temperos— so flavor is truly something I take pride in.”
For Wilson, one of the things he loves most about Rio is its proximity to nature.
“Rio is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to 22 countries,” he emphasized.
Being connected with the African diaspora in Rio is also very attractive to him. Wilson said that he proudly displays his Blackness as a citizen and Black entrepreneur.
“I am Black and Rio is a majority Black city. My wife is Black and a Carioca native, so I also have a Black family here. My employees are Black, and I only hire us.”
Although he still struggles with the language barrier, he has made some progress in learning Brazilian Portuguese, which helps him to strengthen his connections with the Afro-Brazilian culture.
“I am able to handle my daily affairs in Portuguese with no issues. My reading and writing skills are also good. But I still have trouble understanding conversations. I am definitely on the path to fluency, although I have yet to reach that level.”
You can follow more from Antoine Wilson and Soul Temperos on Instagram.