It seems as if Helena Rizzo’s journey to the top of the international restaurant game has only just begun. Yet the pinnacle is already in sight, with two major awards in as many years: Rizzo was last year named the Veuve Clicquot Best Female Chef at the inaugural Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants and this year sees her achieve the same honour on the global stage, an extraordinary achievement for someone still only in her mid-30s.
Rizzo oversees the critically acclaimed São Paulo restaurant Mani with husband Daniel Redondo. In the city’s upscale Jardim Paulistano suburb, the restaurant, which opened in 2004, marries traditional Brazilian ingredients and culinary philosophies with modern technique and a dash of international influence. Unusually, the husband and wife team work side-by-side in the kitchen creating such delights as the eponymous maniocas (a Brazilian root vegetable similar to cassava) - which are baked and served with tucupi froth, coconut milk and white truffle olive oil.
The Brazilian-born cook’s ability to effortlessly reconcile a respect for tradition with contemporary techniques and evolution in cuisine is part raw talent and part experience. Since the very beginning of her career Rizzo has sought to work under chefs that share her broad culinary outlook: a journey that culminated at seminal Girona restaurant El Celler de Can Roca - currently rated number one on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list - where she met her Spanish-born future husband.
Her roots may now be planted in São Paulo but Rizzo sets a model example with her determination to push Brazil’s - and indeed Latin America’s - cuisine forward while staying true to the source material.
(Photographer Credit MIRO)