Helena Rizzo from Brazil has recently joined the likes of Elena Arzak, Nadia Santini and Anne Sophie Pic in being chosen as the winner of the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef ahead of the announcement of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List on April 28th at London’s Guildhall. Humble in her acceptance, Rizzo, who also has an illustrious career as a model, explained that she had never intended to be the best female chef in the world, adding: “I'm very happy and honoured to receive this award.”
In 2006, Rizzo, with husband Daniel Redondo, opened the Mani restaurant in São Paulo. A place where Brazilian ingredients are brought to life using modern technique and arrange of European influences picked up working in restaurants across Spain and Italy, including stint at El Celler De Can Roca. Speaking about his ex student, Joan Roca said: “Helena has talent, sensibility and passion. She is authentic and faithful to her roots.”
Rizzo will be given the award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony, an event Fine Dining Lovers will be streaming live here, as the world tunes in to see which restaurants will be crowned the best in the world. Ahead of the special night we caught up with chef Rizzo to ask her about her career, her views on Brazilian cuisine and what she’d cook for the Brazilian national team if they won the World Cup.
How did you feel when you heard about the award?
I'm very happy and honoured to receive this award. I am not and have never intended to be "the best female chef in the world", especially because this is a difficult judgment to make. Each one of us can be the best in a particular situation, at a given time for a certain person. Although, I am grateful for it.
What’s exciting you about Brazilian cuisine at the moment?
The diverse range of ingredients we have, which each day run the risk of becoming extinct. Examples include yucca plant, jaboticaca fruit and some types of flour, beans and passion fruits.
Which young Brazilian chefs do you admire?
Rodrigo Oliveira from the restaurant Mocoto. Delicious food, served with history, technique and personality.
Are there any Italian influences in your cooking?
My Italian side comes through when cooking at home or for friends, I make a lot of pasta and risotto for them!
What do you like most about Italian ingredients?
Pasta and the freshness of ingredients.
Are there any Italian restaurants you’d really like to try?
I would very much like to visit Massimo Bottura's estaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena.
What’s biggest advantage from your career as a model?
The friendships I have made.
Has being a female had any influence on your chef career?
Working in the kitchen is as hard as it is for men as it is for women! The long hours, the heat of the kitchen, the cuts, the burns, the weekends shifts... To be in this profession you have to give up many other things. It is important to love the job and to be willing to follow this road without distraction.
With the cover of Time magazine featuring Redzepi, Chang and Atala as The Dudes of Food there’s been a lot of debate about the unbalanced portrayal of female chefs in the food industry – what are your opinions regarding this?
I've never felt discriminated against or disadvantaged for being a woman in the countries where I have worked or here in Brazil. It may be more complicated in other parts of the world.
If the Brazilian team won The World Cup what would you serve them?
Vaca Atolada, cow stuck in the mud: Beef Ribs and Cassave simmered for a long time resulting in a hearty Beef Stew.
If they lost?
Lily of the Valley Ice Cream.