Our own co-founder and Sales & Marketing Director Tomas Maunier shares memories of his childhood in South America and his passion for the social dining concept.
I was born in São Jose dos Campos in Brazil, a city in the same state as São Paulo, though my parents were both Argentinian. They moved from Argentina when my father was relocated with his job at Johnson & Johnson’s.
Living in Brazil, we were fortunate enough to have our own small fazenda (large farm or estate). There was another fazenda we also visited regularly located on the side of the terrain which was home to cattle and horses. Ours was near the beach in Ubatuba which was more agricultural, growing coffee beans and bananas & other vegetables. I remember so well when we used to visit ours, you would see a family of monkeys playing around amongst the trees!
The Churrascos (Brazilian word for barbecues) were such a key part of our Sunday. We would meet early in the morning and start up the fire at a friend’s house. While the cooking process started a ‘picada’ would have chicken hearts and caipirinhas – for the adults, and Guaraná for the children. We would grill meats really slowly and would tuck into them cut by cut throughout the day, usually starting with the sausages then moving on to the chicken. We always ended the feast with the prime cuts.
One of my fondest memories whenever I visited a rodizio as child when we were living in Brazil, my favourite was always the fried banana and hearts of palm. And my childhood favourite – always present at any and all children’s party – chocolate brigadeiros!
Moving to Argentina aged 10, the social gathering of friends and family was no different to how it was back in Brazil. This is something I believe is in the heart of everyone in South America – the desire to share food, wine and time, reminiscing about the past and creating new memories. So every Sunday, it was almost ritual to come together and enjoy an asado in the sunshine, always paired with amazing Argentinian wines. For the colder and rainier days (yes, it does get quite cold in Buenos Aires!) we would all take shelter in the ‘quinchos’ in the houses of friends and family. Quinchos are almost like purpose-built huts in the garden. No Argentinian will be stopped from hosting an asado!
Growing up in one of the largest capital cities in the world fed my hunger for new challenges and experiences. From the age of 14, I was working during the school holidays at the family business. Coming from a family of notaries usually means one has an intrigue to follow in their footsteps, and so I began to read law. During year four of my studies (only half way through), I decided it wasn’t for me and went on to work for a marketing agency with my father and sister, working with big international clients such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Disney & Telecom.
A journey across the Atlantic
In 2007, my wife had been accepted to Bradford University on an MA Translation & Interpreting course, so we set out on our journey to Yorkshire with the intention of staying for the duration of the course. Ten years later and here we still are!
Why? I was at a food festival one day in Huddersfield, when I met my now business partner Robert Melman, also a fellow Argentinian. After a few exchanges in Spanish and an acquisition of a Quilmes on my behalf, Robert and I became friends. Over time we discovered our shared passion for excellent food. Soon a passion became a business plan, and a business plan became our first restaurant – Fazenda Leeds, opening in 2010.
What a journey we’ve come on! It’s a very exciting time for us, and we couldn’t do it without the team we have. As a child and throughout my adult life, the experience of sharing great times and great food has always been so instrinsic for me, in my blood. When I stop to think about where we are today, I still feel the deep-rooted passion for sharing a piece of my South American heritage with every guest that walks through our doors…