Using a recipe he learned in his childhood, Rubem Pereira de Lucena has conquered people from Brasilia with a tasty sun-dried beef. Brasilia was still a very young and fashionable city when the teenager Rubem de Lucena arrived there in 1971. But the city lacked almost everything and it was exactly this which attracted him so, he decided to open a small supermarket in the south neighborhood of the Brazilian capital.
Born in Caicó, a city in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, this merchant’s son recently graduated from high school, with some money he received after resigning from the Sadia Company and with a strong desire to succeed, had no difficulty in settling. Soon, his store was totally paid and making a very nice profit.
Business was from plain sailing when suddenly a huge hypermarket from the South of Brazil decided to open a branch in Brasilia. Later on, another international branch also settled down in the city. In a short time, these millionaires retailers did not only attracted all Rubem’s customers, but also threatened to “suffocate” him once and for all. As a good Northeastern Brazilian boy, Rubem had no doubts and sold his business. For him, those big grocery markets could stay by themselves and their maddened bidding wars.
One dish was enough to draw everybody’s attention.
When he was a supermarket owner Rubem used to prepare weekend lunches in his house. On those occasions, he prepared typical dishes from the northeast of Brazil to the joy and pleasure of some friends and fellow citizens. Among all dishes, one in particular called everyone’s attention. It was the sun-dried beef that Rubem had learned to prepare as a child, just having a look at the way his relatives prepared it. While eating it, his friends never stopped praising the cooker, and especially the wonderful taste of his food. Many of his friends even insisted on taking Rubem to their houses to prepare this delicacy. More and more Rubem’s hobby was being recognized by everybody. When he opened his first restaurant named XIQUE-XIQUE, he just called some of his friend and it was soon packed.
The first restaurant came out after a series of conversations between Rubem and his brother in law, José Araújo do Valle, who eventually became his partner, after convincing him to explore his culinary skills. The restaurant was simple but very cozy. Rubem and Araújo soon tried to offer good food with generous portions and affordable prices. They did not bother getting up very early to do so, or going shopping in groceries stores and select all the ingredients to make the “carne de sol” (sun-dried beef).
To male it work, Rubem often went to work very late or even didn’t sleep just preparing everything to serve his enthusiastic customers. In 1979 he opened the XIQUE-XIQUE restaurant in the north wing neighborhood and it turned out to be a meeting place. Attracted by the well prepared food everyone wanted a table there. In less than a year, Rubem and his partner managed to gather enough money to open a second restaurant. By this time they were able to hire more people and their daily life was no longer a sacrifice. They had succeeded.
The XIQUE-XIQUE Restaurant at the South Wing neighborhood of the city was founded in 1980 – just one year after the first XIQUE-XIQUE – and offered a diverse menu apart from the “Carne de Sol” (see details in box) which since then, makes that two restaurants really famous. There you can meet politicians, businessmen, artists, and common customers.The XIQUE-XIQUE, as Rubem quoted, is one of the rare places in Brasilia where you can find all kind of people, from workers to the glittering people of the elite.
Among the people who usually go there, you can meet Lavoisier Maia, Humberto Lucena, Aloisio Alves, Roberto Freire Mussum among others. Even Tancredo Neves went there, before being elected President.
Just to have an idea of the prestige of the XIQUE-XIQUE, we need to mention an event that happened recently, during a TV interview about the social pact. The hostess Jô Soares, from the “Jô Onze e Meia” program, turned to his guest Rogerio Magri and asked him if it was true that the Minister of the Department of Labor had avoided a meeting with the president of the Metalworkers Union of São Paulo, Luiz Antonio de Medeiros and the president of CUT, Jair Meneguelli. “No” said Magri. “In fact, I had a meeting with both at the XIQUE XIQUE, which is my favorite restaurant in Brasilia”. That phrase from the minister Magri mentioned in a national network made Rubem’s phone ring a lot in Brasilia. Once more his restaurant had been recognized by a personality.
Nowadays about 600 meals are served daily in both restaurants. Most of them are paid with a food ticket. The “Carne de Sol” (sun-dried beef) is responsible for 80% of the movement. Due to this success, the Xique-Xique network is already thinking about licensing some restaurants in Rio, São Paulo and other Brazilian cities. Rubem is willing to pass all his experience to those who are interested (especially in the way of preparing the sun-dried beef) and ready to work with this franchising.
Apart from both restaurants, which are being computerized, the group also has a distributor of cheese and balanced feed, a little farm in the Distrito Federal (Brasilia) where the meat is sun-dried, and a small and experimental livestock farming from Western Switzerland.
All of these were obtained from the work of the two restaurants. Nothing bad, if we take into consideration that all happened in no more than ten years. And for those who want to know what XIQUE-XIQUE means, Rubem is eager to explain: ‘It is a typical cactus from the Northeast, ôxente!*”
*typical exclamation word from the Northeast of Brazil.