Current Issue #488

Tchê: Adelaide's BBQ Boys from Brazil

Tchê: Adelaide's BBQ Boys from Brazil

Snags burnt on a gas-powered barbie are not on Tchê Brazilian BBQ’s menu, as they, instead, deliver an authentic brand of coal-fired and slow-cooked succulent meats.

Barbecue is endemic to Brazilian culture, with most people hosting barbecues at home weekly or attending barbecue houses every other week. There is a coal-fired pit barbecue installed in just about every Brazilian patio or apartment complex, and people even still practise the ‘fogo de chão’ (literally, ‘ground fire’) where they can.

“If you go to the countryside or the smaller cities nowadays, you might find people building them themselves,” Tchê Brazilian BBQ’s Bruno Scheidt says. “Just making it out of brick on the ground and building it up. A lot of them, where there’s space, they might end up doing the barbecue on the ground directly, just putting the skewers and fire on the ground directly.

“If you go back through history to how it started, you’ve got the Brazilian gauchos, the cowboys,” Scheidt says. “When they used to take the cattle around they’d have to stop and eat, so obviously one of the ways they found was just making a fire on the ground, making some wooden skewers and putting the meat on them.”


Simple problems demand simple solutions, but few gauchos at the time could have guessed that their pragmatic approach to cooking would give rise to a national culinary tradition. Known as ‘fogo de chão’ this style of barbecue entered the Brazilian consciousness, and has continued for generations.

Scheidt, a Brazilian who has lived in Adelaide since 2009, has built a catering business to showcase this style of cooking and the culture of Brazil’s most southern state, Rio Grande do Sul. Named for the idiomatic Southern Brazilian expression ‘tchê’ (similar to ‘woah’ or ‘oof’ in English), the business is staying true to its roots.

“The idea with Tchê BBQ is that nowadays when you think about Brazilian food and Brazilian barbecue people think of samba or Carnival, it’s a lot of people dancing and stuff. We want to show a bit more of the culture of the south. We’re trying to show that there’s more to Brazil than just that samba part of it.”


It makes sense then that Scheidt would start his barbecue catering business in Australia, where the barbie is as embedded in our national psyche as in Brazil. Yet, the distinct difference in the local and Brazilian styles gives Scheidt an edge in this smokey marketplace.

“Here a lot of it is gas, and people use a lot of briquettes,” says Scheidt. “In Brazil we don’t. We use coals, which gives the flavour to the meat. A lot of people ask, ‘Where does the flavour come from?’ A lot of it’s from the smoke, and that fat dripping into coals and the smoke coming up and smoking the meat.”

A key difference to Brazilian-style barbecue is also in the cuts of meat. In Australia we are used to a tradition of sliced steaks and chops, but in Brazil the cuts come different. The ‘picanha’ cut (rump cap to an Australian butcher) is one of the most common and succulent Brazilian cuts, and one that Tchê specialises in, along with massive sides of beef ribs, or ‘costela’, which are slow-cooked for up to eight hours before eating.


“That was one of the difficulties we had initially, was finding those Brazilian cuts,” says Schedit. “We had to go to specific butchers and say, ‘Can you do this one for me?’ A lot of them said ‘no’ because they wouldn’t know what to do with the rest.”

There has been a steady growth in the Scheidt’s barbecue business since beginning in 2014.

“A lot of it is to do with word of mouth,” he says. “People calling and saying, ‘Can you do a birthday party? What can you do for us?’ It just started growing from there, then we suddenly started going to bigger events.”

Key to their success has been a focus on presenting an authentic style of barbecue, complete with gaucho costumes that include cow-horn handled knives, leather belts with the capacity to serve seated tables directly from roaming skewers, but also being willing to adapt to Australian tastes.

“Obviously, being in Australia, some people will want other stuff, like lamb, and that’s fine we can do that. But the initial menu has the traditional cuts like picanha and costela, which is an all-time favourite in the south because it [costela] has the most flavour.”


Sometimes those Brazilian traditions can surprise Australian patrons, though, says Scheidt. Such traditions, like having chicken hearts on the menu (a Brazilian delicacy) or the generous application of rock salt to meat, shock locals.

“It’s happened a couple of times where people will walk past and say, ‘Well… that’s a considerable amount of salt you’ve got on there,’” laughs Scheidt, “but obviously we knock that all off before we serve.”

And, like the butchers that supply the meat, Tchê prides itself on versatility. Along with his engineer brother, Scheidt has developed some unique barbecue apparatus to mimic the fogo de chão and coal-pit styles, but leave no mark on a client’s property.

“Of course, during fire ban season the CFS isn’t happy if you’re putting fire directly on the ground so we work around that,” he says. “I created this barbecue, with a base where it’s sitting off the ground, but still getting that same feel for the fogo de chão, but it doesn’t do any damage.”


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