“Brazilian models go here. They don’t eat a lot.”Photo: Melissa HomMarcio Lorenzi was just 15 when he began working Brazil’s rodizios, all-you-can-eat feasts where runners present skewers of grilled meats. He migrated when his brother Sandro opened Churrascaria Plataforma in midtown and for the past three years has been master carver at sister location Churrascaria Tribeca. We asked him what it’s like refereeing impromptu eating competitions and serving chicken hearts to Victoria’s Secret models.
Does it get tiring carrying those big skewers of meat around?
The meats can weigh ten to twenty pounds. It’s not so much the weight as the posture: You have to be very careful not to drip any blood on the table or the customers.
As master carver, you both serve and prepare the meat. How do you do the latter?
The red meat is simply salted. The pork ribs, chicken hearts, and ribs are all marinated at least 24 hours; we use herbs, beer, and cherry wine for the seasonings. Our grill is gas — the Fire Department doesn’t allow us to have charcoal, which gives it an extra layer of flavor.
What are some of the secrets to carving?
When we cut the flank steak, we cut it against the fiber. That emphasizes the tenderness. We cut the picanha to emphasize the flavor because the meat is already tender.
The picanha has also been called the “hump” or “rump cover.” What’s so special about this cut?
It’s a very unique small piece of meat. We skewer it by wrapping the meat in an inch-and-a-half layer of fat so once it’s cooked there’s all these juices.
What are some differences you’ve noticed between meat eaters of various nationalities?
Asians love the duck and the ribs. Brazilians go to these places three or four times a week, so they have their own preferences, like the picanha and the chicken hearts. For Americans, it’s something new. They try to get everything at once and eat really fast.
Do non-Brazilians get squeamish about the chicken hearts?
We have so many [on a skewer] that people ask silly questions like, “How many chickens died for that skewer?” Or, “How many hearts did that chicken have?”
Have you served any Brazilian celebrities?
The most fulfilling one: I had the chance of serving Pelé. We get a lot of actors, models. The Brazilian models from Victoria’s Secret go here, like Gisele. They don’t eat a lot. They know already what they like — rice and beans, picanha, chicken hearts, maybe a caiprinha.
Do people ever treat the rodizio as a challenge or a competition?
Sometimes corporate parties get big tables and start playing around: “I’m going to eat more than you, I’m going to be the last to switch to red.” [The red and green cards indicate whether a waiter should keep serving]. Someone switches to red, and they cheer: “One less in the game.” This is a place with a lot of food, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat and explode.
— Daniel Maurer