Avenida Brazil looking for another win at The Woodlands Taste of the Town

By: Kim Morgan/Woodlands Online
| Published 01/16/2019


THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Avenida Brazil Executive Chef Vanderlei Bernardi is facing the heat as he aims for a twofer at the 2019 Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce Taste of the Town.

'I'm going in as the defending champion.' Avenida Brazil Chef Vanderlei Bernardi

His steak and potatoes won him Best Entrée in 2018.

"Now that I know what I have to do to win again, I'm going in as the defending champion," Bernardi said. "I will change one thing or two to keep it interesting … change the flavor a little bit, just to make it different."

Avenida Brazil Churrascaria Steakhouse has three locations in the Houston area, including The Woodlands, Clear Lake and a southwest location near Sugar Land.

"Churrascaria is a type of grilling in Brazil," said Manager Melissa Abrantes. "We brought all of our grills from Brazil. It's a rotisserie style of cooking meat that results in an even sear around the meat."

The original Avenida Brazil opened in 2008 in Houston. The Woodlands location opened in July 2017.

"We saw the amount of companies here, families here, people that like to eat out, people that enjoy their leisure time, and thought it would be a really good place to open a location," Abrantes said.

But they couldn't predict that Hurricane Harvey had something else in mind. The massive storm occurred within weeks of Avenida's opening, dampening their hope for a great debut.

"When we originally opened, it was unfortunately right before Harvey," Abrantes said. "It was a tough time to open up."

Despite that, within months Avenida Brazil went on to become a Woodlands Chamber of Commerce 2018 Taste of the Town winner.

The winning entrée was a 21-day aged sirloin steak, seared on site at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott, with a side of au gratin potatoes.

"It was amazing," Bernardi said. "I wasn't expecting to win. I just wanted to participate. I was very surprised."

Chef Bernardi has been making magic in the kitchen since he was 19. But he first got a taste for it when he was a 17-year-old truck driver in Brazil. His daily lunch stops whetted his appetite for Brazilian cuisine.

In January 2011, Bernardi moved to Texas. He bought his first car, and it was Michelle's father, Luis Abrantes, who sold him car insurance. Speaking Portuguese bonded the men, and Bernardi came on board as Avenida's executive chef.

Clearly his skills have sated the appetite of fine diners, but Chef Bernardi is happy to share a tip or two for at-home grillers.

When it comes to steak, buy a top-quality cut and keep it simple – add some sea salt, and let the flavor of the meat do its thing.

The tips change a little when it comes to seafood, pork, lamb and poultry. Taste it for yourself at Avenida Brazil.

"There's something about The Woodlands where they rally behind you," Abrantes said. "They are supportive and they want to see us succeed in the community. I can't really even put into words how special it's been to us, and how much it's motivated us."

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