Category Archives: Cooking

i8tonite: with Chef Ilson Goncalves of Samba and Acorn Moranga

SambaMontclairAcornMorangaOne of the great things about the United States are our individual food stories. It’s inspirational to share epicurean traditions from one’s native country showcasing edible discoveries. Like many chefs, Ilson Gonçalves of Samba Montclair, was inspired by his Brazilian mother and her restaurant. Gonçalves makes annual pilgrimages to his birthplace, Blumenau, a small city located in Southern Brazil, to discover and re-imagine traditional and non-traditional recipes alike for his guests.

Samba, the bring-your-own-bottle, 32-seat venue has been reviewed by many regional dining critics as well as the venerable The New York Times. The latter citing in an enthusiastic review, “The kitchen is small and the food that comes out of it is guileless: straightforward, hearty, built for comfort”. The dining writer ended his eating observations stating, “Diners…may be pleasantly surprised by Samba’s homey pleasures and mellow atmosphere. This Brazilian place proudly bops to a different beat.”

All year round Samba offers stellar dining, but fall is really special when guests can avail themselves of Chef SambaMontclairOwnerIlsonGoncalvesGonçalves childhood Brazilian memories with signature dishes such as Mandioca frita com linguica calabresa e cebola (fried yucca with Brazilian pork sausage and caramelized onions), Bobó de camarão (yucca purée with coconut milk, tomatoes and onion served with whole shrimp and white rice) or Bifo a cavalo (thin pan fried steak topped with two fried eggs served with sautéed collard greens, white rice and breaded fried banana). New Jersey Monthly notes that Gonçalves “serves up an excellent version” of the traditional feijoada, Brazil’s national dish, a gently braised stew of black-bean, pork, dried beef, and linguiça.

Samba’s success clearly lies with Gonçalves culinary skills, affection for his mother and Brazilian cooking techniques. It is a delicious and loving homage to Brazilian home-cooking and mothers who cook, inspiring generations to do the same.


Chef Questionnaire from Chef Ilson Gonçalves:

How long have you been cooking? I learned to cook when I was 11 years old in my mom’s restaurant in Brazil.

What is your favorite food to cook? Chicken soup.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Pomegranates. When I watch a movie, pomegranate for me is like popcorn.

Photo by Shelby Stewart
Photo by Shelby Stewart

What do you cook at home? I don’t really cook much at home because I live by myself.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? People who are open-minded about trying different foods.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? The (individuals) who eat the whole plate then complain about the food.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex. I hate Tupperware. My mother used to have so much Tupperware that when I opened her cabinet it would fall on my head.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine. But it depends, if I go to a bar with friends, I

Photo by TravelJunction
Photo by TravelJunction

like beer.

Your favorite cookbook author? I don’t follow cookbooks.

Your favorite kitchen tool? You can do anything with a knife.

Your favorite ingredient? Yucca. I think it’s very universal, like flour.

Your least favorite ingredient? Cucumber. It makes me nauseous just to think about it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Wash burnt pans.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Brazilian, but I’m biased.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Everything depends on what I’m in the mood for. I can’t eat tofu, though, because I’m allergic.

Yucca/ Cassava: Photo by Tom Rulkens

Favorite vegetable? Yucca.

Chef you most admire? Alex Atala of D.O.M. in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Food you like the most to eat? Rice and fried eggs.

Food you dislike the most? Anything that has cucumber.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None. I think they look good on others, but I can’t see myself with tattoos.

Acorn Moranga: Photo by Samba Montclair

Recipe: Acorn Moranga

  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 1 medium butternut squash, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 4 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 lb. u12 shrimp
  • Parsley and cilantro for garnish
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds, creating a bowl. Cover squash with aluminum foil and cook in a 350 degree oven until tender,  60-75 minutes.

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Over medium heat, cook the onion with garlic and caramelize the butternut squash.  When squash is tender, add the heavy cream and coconut milk and simmer. Add the shrimp and cook another 4 minutes.

Pour the cooked butternut squash and shrimp mixture into the acorn squash. Garnish with parsley and cilantro and top with shaved Parmesan. Makes 4 servings.


 The End. Go Eat.


I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Southern chef Hugh Acheson is the cooking star of the moment…albeit one who is humble and has a really good sense of humor. He proclaims on his website, “To Athens, (Acheson) is the guy who owns those restaurants, has one eyebrow, a wife far better looking than he is and two young children who are the apple of his eye.”

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette
Photo Credit: Emily B. Hall

And yes, with humor, there is always a modicum of truth but Acheson isn’t just the chef with one eyebrow, a beautiful wife and children and the guy who owns those restaurants – four to be exact — in Georgia which include his newest, The Florence (pictured above), the National, Empire State South and the one that started it all, 5 X 10. The Canadian-born but Southern food adopted Acheson is the chef who published an award-winning James Beard cookbook “A New Turn in The South” and won the prestigious award from the culinary organization for “Best Chef, Southeast”. In addition to these impressive accomplishments and many more, he has been awarded Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” (2002), “Mentor of the Year” (2012) and his town newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, presented him with “Restaurant of the Year”.

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette. Photo by Emily B Hall
Photo credit: Emily B. Hall

Currently, Acheson is promoting his book “The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits” (Clarkson Potter, 2015) which showcases his love of vegetables, his family and cooking in the Southern with simple and easy to use recipes.

If you don’t live in the Atlanta/ Savannah, Georgia area, you have the potential of meeting Mr. Acheson in Los Angeles. He is cooking as the “All Star Chef” – along with “Local All Star Chefs” — Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – for the James Beard Foundation’s “Night of Culinary Stars” on November 6, 2015. On November 7, he will be signing copies of his cookbook as well as demo-ing recipes at The Grove’s Sur La Table.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):


Chicken Arugula with Buttermilk Dressing. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

What is your favorite food?


What do you always have in your fridge?

Feta, carrots, eggs, prosciutto.

What do you cook at home?

Roast chicken with gravy and rice.

What marked characteristic do you despise in your customer?

Everyone is different. I rarely despise anyone.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?

Adventurous eating.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?


I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Beer, wine or cocktail?


Your favorite cookbook author?

Paula Wolfert.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

A bench scraper.

Your favorite ingredient?


Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?

Dishes, just like everyone else.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?

Middle Eastern.

Chef you most admire?

Mike Solomonov.

Food you like the most?

Middle Eastern.

Food you dislike the most?


How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?

Six. One radish is the only culinary one.

Early Egg in The Hole. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Recipe: Butter lettuce salad with feta, radish, and dill pickle vinaigrette

Clean the lettuce. Dry and set aside.

In a blender, puree 1/2 a dill pickle and then add two tablespoons of cider vinegar and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Season with salt. Crumble some feta and slice some radishes, and then add those to the lettuces, lightly torn up to the size of your mouth. Dress to your taste. Toss well. Eat.

The End. Go Eat.