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Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Trailblazing chef reinvigorates food of Minas Gerais

Why go? The food of Minas Gerais, which mixes Portuguese, African and indigenous influences, is much loved throughout Brazil, but pioneering young chef Leo Paixão is taking it in exciting new directions.

Menu highlights: Traditional Mineiro (from Minas Gerais state) dishes are given a new lease of life thanks to Paixão's classical French training. Start with yellow cassava and pepper sauce, followed by piglet with crispy farofa (toasted cassava flour), apple and cachaça. Mango tart with sweet avocado cream and tarragon ice-cream provides a fragrant finish.

What's the space like? Relaxed and welcoming thanks to soft lighting, displays of wild flowers and a rustic interior design. The street-side tables and cosy garden are perfect for warm evenings.

Chef's background: After training as a doctor, the young chef gave up medicine to study at the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts in Paris. He went on to work at La Table de Joël Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire.

Bonus point: Paixão is a supporter of forgotten and unusual foods from the Cerrado tropical savannah region, which is under threat from big agriculture. He works with 'quilombolas' (descendants of Afro-Brazilian slave communities) to forage wild seeds, nuts and fruits.

Images: Jô Moreira

On the pass

  • Leonardo Paixão

Style of food

  • Mineira haute cuisine

Standout dish

  • Piglet with crispy farofa (toasted cassava flour), apple and cachaça