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Jersey City, NJ


Ilson graduated this winter from the Natural Gourmet Institute’s (NYC) Chef Training Program. The intensive five-month program at the renowned health-supportive culinary school focuses on essential cooking techniques, methods for sourcing ingredients, culinary business principles, and the art of healthy cooking. Goncalves developed this yuca gnocchi dish while studying at Natural Gourmet Institute.
Upon graduation, Goncalves completed a 100-hour internship at Rouge Tomate Chelsea, a pioneer venue for combining culinary arts, nutrition, and sustainability. “I never want to stop learning,” enthuses Goncalves. “At NGI, we studied what impact the food industry has on the environment and how best to support local farms. I’m also just back from a life-changing trip to Morocco where I immersed myself in the culinary culture, learning about spicing, the art of tea making and cooking with a tagine.” Ilson came to the United States a 23-year-old with just $116 in his pocket. He began working for renowned Chef/Owner Zod Arifai, quickly ascending from busing to waiting tables, then managing Next Door, the casual sister restaurant of Arifai’s acclaimed Blu.
When he opened Samba in December 2010, it was a small deli where he offered a few Brazilian dishes as specials. Today, the menu at Samba is a reflection of the homestyle cooking he grew up eating in his native Southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina where his mom operated a popular restaurant. “I feel I’m not only a better restaurateur now, but I’m also a better person,” Goncalves adds. “I can’t wait to apply all I’ve learned to Samba.” And the education continues for Ilson! This spring, he begins a 9-month MBA program at Rutgers University – Newark.