By Meredith Wagner | Arts & Life Editor
The tradition of snacking on LUA cheese bread has traveled all the way from Brazil to Waco’s farmers market, just as the vendor happily selling it to market-goers.
The faces of those who run Waco’s LUA booth are largely familiar to those who frequent the market, though they do not own the company as a whole.
LUA cheese bread was founded by Austin-dwelling real-estate agent Christiano Prado, who now distributes LUA’s products to 10 farmers markets and two food trucks in Texas.
Husband and wife duo Rick and Lael Decarvalho have manned the LUA stand in Waco for nearly a year. They agreed that they love not only working the market, but working together as a couple.
“I have a lot of fun working with Lael, my wife,” Rick Decarvalho said. “I always want to work with her. We connect so well that I think it’s good to work together.”
Though Lael Decarvalho said she “married into” the beloved Brazilian cheese bread tradition, Rick Decarvalho said he spent much of his early life in Brazil preparing and consuming the sticky delights. Rick Decarvalho said the resemblance of LUA’s cheese bread to the traditional Brazilian bread is “very accurate.”
“Whenever I heard about this business, for example, I knew the product,” Rick Decarvalho said. “We are so used in Brazil to eating cheese bread — morning, afternoon, evening.”
Rick Decarvalho said the Waco Downtown Farmers Market is a nostalgic opportunity for him to experience again what life was like in Brazil.
“When I came here, the first thing that I thought was, ‘Wow, this is a ghost town. I don’t see anybody on the streets.’ Whereas in Brazil, everybody is on the street talking to people, making friendships all the time,” Rick Decarvalho said. “That’s exactly why I love coming to the market — not only to sell cheese bread or only to make money, but to see people around. I miss that.”
Despite missing some of the integral elements of Brazilian culture, Rick Decarvalho said the opportunity to move to America at age 20 was irresistible.
“Since every single person in Brazil would love to go to America, I couldn’t resist,” Rick Decarvalho said. After living in America for some time, Rick confidently stuck by his decision. “Here is heaven,” he said.
Lael’s love for the market stems less from nostalgia and cultural tradition, and more from an appreciation for the market as a whole.
“The quality of everything here exceeds expectations,” Lael Decarvalho said. “There’s so much diversity at this farmers market. I really like that.”
Lael Decarvalho also said the general attitude at the market is one of love and respect.
“Everybody’s so family-oriented here,” she said. “They treat each other really well.”
Rick and Lael Decarvalho said the experiences they have gained from running the LUA booth will hopefully translate to increased access to Brazilian traditions in Waco.
“We had thought about starting our own [restaurant] before; We just never got around to it,” Lael Decarvalho said. “[Running the booth has] opened my eyes to entrepreneurship. We’ve thought about it a lot.”
Lael Decarvalho said the more she and her husband work the booth, the more they are able to confirm Waco’s need for a traditional Brazilian restaurant.
“We’ve had people come up to our tent in the last couple weeks and ask, ‘Do you guys have a Brazilian restaurant around here?” Lael Decarvalho said. “That kind of sparked a light bulb that people would like it.”
Until Rick Decarvalho completes his degree in aviation mechanics at Texas State Technical College, Lael Decarvalho said they plan to hold off on taking strides to get a restaurant up and running.
Rick Decarvalho agreed that the possibilities for harnessing other traditions extend far beyond the bread they sell each Saturday at the market.
“There’s a lot of stuff other than cheese bread that we could start making popular,” Rick Decarvalho said. “There’s so much more to offer from Brazil.”