For a self-taught cook who started out pushing a hotdog cart in Brasilia, Roberta Sudbrack has done pretty well for herself. As head chef at Brazil’s presidential palace for eight years, she cooked for the likes of Bill Clinton, Fidel Castro and Prince Charles, as well as all of Latin America’s heads of state. She is the only female head chef to have been awarded three stars in the Guia Quatro Rodas, the Brazilian equivalent of Michelin, and her eponymous restaurant is No.13 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Despite countless accolades, Sudbrack is determined to keep challenging herself. “If you believe you’re the best, why would you try to improve?” she says. This attitude pervades her work at Roberta Sudbrack in Rio de Janeiro, where she changes the menu daily to adapt to whatever nature brings, and constantly develops her dishes, taking inspiration from art exhibitions, travel, music, books and even poetry.
A key trait of her philosophy is the emphasis on natural techniques. From the beetroot ravioli to the pumpkin tartare, everything at Roberta Sudbrack is made by hand. The chef shuns machinery and modern equipment and prides herself on her 100% artisanal approach, but her cooking is anything but basic: she presents intricate, complex dishes such as her signature smoked okra with semi-cooked prawn, served with vegetarian caviar made from okra seeds.
Despite her reputation as a cook for royalty, Sudbrack remains one of the most down-to-earth chefs in Brazil. Her desire to connect with customers and explore the essence of ‘Brazilianness’ is partly what led her to her most recent project: Sud Dog, a travelling food truck serving authentic Brazilian-style hotdogs. Whether a hark back to her cart-pushing days or just an expression of her passion for simple food, Sudbrack has found a winning formula. Her modest approach combined with superior cooking has won her the ultimate respect and admiration of her peers across Latin America.
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