BRAZIL, June 2014—I try and go to Brazil whenever I can find an excuse. And the fact that I haven’t made a show in the city of Salvador since A Cook’s Tour, over 12 years ago, seemed like reason enough for another visit. Salvador is all the best things about the country boiled down into a thick, spicy African stew. It’s mystical, magical, incredibly colorful, and has its own choreography that we worked hard to capture.
I asked the crew to shoot at hip level as much as possible, to move the cameras to convey the sense that, unique to Salvador, everybody is beautiful. Young, old, fat, thin, every hue and shade on an extraordinarily diverse color spectrum—absolutely everyone in Salvador is beautiful. Even ugly people are beautiful. Everybody seems likely to start dancing at any moment, and they often do. There are drums and music everywhere. Large cold beers and powerful beverages of crushed limes and sugarcane liquor, along with spicy fried things, seem to appear from all directions. It seems, from a visitor’s point of view, utopian.
It’s not, of course, Utopia at all. Brazil in general—and Salvador in particular—face enormous problems. How they’re going to handle hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors attending the World Cup is going to be … interesting. There will be, for sure, many adventures, but most of them will surely be good.
I stopped trying to figure out Brazil years ago and after many visits just decided to go with the flow. The show we came back with, I hope, reflects that attitude. After nearly a year on the road and a solid block of shooting on five continents, this is the last new episode of the season. Given the rigors of all those miles and all those airports, I felt a “low-impact” episode was appropriate. Someplace warm where the music is always good and the water’s fine. Someplace that definitely doesn’t suck.