Chef Helena Rizzo.
Together with her husband—the Spanish chef Daniel Redondo— Rizzo owns Maní restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which was included in the 2013 San Pellegrino list of the top 50 restaurants in the world. The award-winning chef trained at El Celler de Can Roca, currently considered the best restaurant in the world. Rizzo was selected last year’s best chef Latin America by Restaurant magazine.
Helena Rizzo (Porto Alegre, 1978) left her modeling career and abandoned her architecture studies to pursue her true dream: becoming a chef. “Cooking was in my soul, I felt that was my place,” she confesses. In Sao Paulo, she worked as an apprentice with the top chefs of the moment, such as Emmanuelle Bassoleil, Luciano Bossegia and Neka Menna-Barreto and served as head chef for over two years in the Na Mata Café, a restaurant she co-owned.
Always restless and eager for new culinary experiences, the young chef decided to leave Sao Paulo and moved to Italy, where she worked in Milan at the two-Michelin-star Sadler restaurant. Afterward, in Spain, she worked as an apprentice at El Celler de Can Roca, where she met her husband.
Since 2006, Rizzo and Redondo have run Sao Paulo’s Maní restaurant, with a shared culinary proposal based in respect for Brazilian traditional practices and ingredients, which they harness with great skill and thoroughness using modern techniques, and a clear influence of classic Spanish cuisine.
“I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be ‘the best female chef in the world,'” said Rizzo, who also noted the hard work of her team. “Each of us can be the best in a particular situation, at one given point, in the eyes of a particular person. Of course, I feel very happy and honored to receive this award and I am grateful.”
With this distinction, chef Helena Rizzo joins an exclusive group of talented female chefs, such as Elena Arzak, from of Arzak in Spain; Anne-Sophie Pic, of Maison Pic in France; and last year’s winner, Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore in the Italian countryside. It is expected that this year chef Rizzo will publish her first cookbook and open her second restaurant. ■