Helena Rizzo: Brazil's Queen Chef

Luciana Bianchi Reports On the Model-Turned-Culinary-Artist at Restaurant Maní

Helena Rizzo is one of the best chefs in Brazil, period. But she came to the profession via an unlikely route, studying architecture in her youth and then working as a model before settling on a culinary career at the age of 18. “Ever since I was a child I loved to eat and to experience new flavors and aromas,” she says. Like supermodel Gisele Bündchen, Rizzo is every inch the charming sulista (or southern Brazilian woman), and has a gastronomic CV to match her sun-kissed looks: in her early career she worked in many top restaurants in Brazil, including Fasano and Emmanuel Bassoleil, before moving to Europe and the kitchens of Italy’s La Torre and Sadler, and Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca. It was at the latter establishment that she met her future husband, the Catalan chef Daniel Redondo, with whom she opened the Brazilian-Spanish eatery Maní in Sao Paolo in 2006. “We complete each other inside and outside the kitchen,” she says. The menu at Maní includes foie gras truffles with guava jelly and port wine, “the perfect” egg with pupunha foam, and sorbets made of bacuris and other exotic Brazilian fruits. Such delights have won Rizzo multiple awards in Brazil and internationally, most notably the “Chef of the Future” prize from Paris’s Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie this year. Since December 2009, Rizzo has also been creating a series of menus for TAM Airlines.

To make your own version of Rizzo’s signature dish, Maniócas, click here.

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