Jefferson Rueda is a thirty-something year old chef from São Paulo who embodies the fusion between French technique, studied at Le Cordon Bleu with chef Laurent Suaudeau, and the Italian experience he forged during his many visits to the peninsula. The inspiration for the “italo caipira” cuisine. He’s been the king of the restaurant Attimo in a luxurious villa of Nova Conceição, in São Paulo, for the past few years.
The patron is longtime friend and restaurateur Marcelo Fernandes: a perfect partnership recognized by many awards and mentions in guides such as the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants 2013, and Rueda seems willing to work his way up to the top. His wife Janaina is also in the business with her Bar da Dona Onça: apparently she serves the best feijoada in São Paulo.
Fine Dining Lovers caught up with chef Rueda during the 2014 Chef's Cup in Alta Val Badia, to find out more about his cuisine and cooking philosophy.
Where does the name Attimo come from?
By accident; when we finished construction we still didn’t have a name, Marcelo and I thought it was an important moment in my career, a new beginning. Attimo starts with the letter A, the first of the alphabet, the beginning of everything.
How much of Italy is there in you?
A lot, I feel like I am two times Italian: my family is from there and my restaurant appeals to Italians living in Brazil. You can definitely taste Italy in my dishes. I can think of Cremona mustard, cotechino, taleggio cheese, mortadella and artisanal flour I use for bread. I just added Espaguete à Carbonara com linguiça de porco artesanal da casa (Carbonara spaghetti with pork) to my menu. My wine list is also 50% Italian. I stayed in Italy for some time, I remember Gennaro Esposito with gratitude, a lot of what I know of fish I learned from him. Another example is my production of cured meats inspired from Italian techniques. There are all of the prime ingredients that don’t exist in Europe. I make pork knuckle monteiro with quirera de milho: it’s sort of a soft polenta, or the caipira hen that I use to stuff my ravioli with quiabo, an African vegetable you can find here in local farms. I use legumes, cereals, fruits from around São Paulo’s diverse biosystem.
What do you ask of your team?
I have 35 people in the kitchen and counting everyone working the floor, we are about a hundred. My job is to make us feel like a team, if one makes a mistake everyone pays. I work a lot: the more you grow, the more you work. Once you’ve reached the top, you have to fight to stay there. I ask skills, cleanleness, everyone who works for me knows how important it is to work in a clean environment.
How did the restaurant business change in your country?
I belong to the new generation of South American chefs who are the new wave. We’ve started a new revolution after Spain and Northern Europe for all gourmet lovers. Brazil’s rising economic power had an influence on the flourishing restaurant business, the same is happening in Peru’s great cities, in Argentina, in Chile, in Uruguay. I tried to keep my prices fairly democratic: lunch prices are low to attract more people to my kitchen and have them experience Attimo. In the evening, I offer more complex tasting menus.