After studying journalism, the young Brazilian Manu Buffara decided to change course and devoted herself to cooking. She visited some of the best restaurants in the world – such as René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen and Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago.

In 2011 she opened her own restaurant, Manu, in the city where she was born, Curitiba, where she makes a name for herself as a talented cook, despite being outside the Brazilian gastronomic axis, led by the metropolises Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

The Manu restaurant is the latest winner of the Miele One To Watch Award for Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018.

 

Manu Buffara- Chef’s Portrait

 

Chef Manu, how did your culinary journey lead you to where you are now – Executive Chef in your own restaurant?

When we think about being a chef, we certainly think that this is an easy task, it is enough to have a good taste for food, and we think that we are already able to be part of this culinary world.

But that is not how it is. It takes a lot of strength, struggle and knowledge. You have to know your culture, your city, producers, and you must have a lot of creativity and a lot of focus.

Not only is this a glamorous profession, the market is getting more and more demanding. There is much to learn and much more to prepare for success in this field.

There is always a lot of commitment and some important attributes needed, because it is a profession that is subject to much criticism. It requires a lot of courage, flexibility and leadership. In addition, of course, passion. It’s tedious working hours with lots of mental and physical effort that ultimately pay off for those who can stand it and are ready to go on that career.

For those who take risks and have their own service they still need to control all the issues of restaurant budgets, grocery shopping and other expenses necessary to maintain a long-lasting and quality business.

 

Were there any Chefs that influenced you especially in your early career?

We often face difficulties but nothing is discouraging! I have people who inspire me to this day.

Rene Redzepi was a kind of mentor to me, and one of the first restaurants I worked in. There I learned to appreciate the product and the people, to know the country, the cultures and the advantages.

And Alex Atala, who is not only a friend, he is a person who introduced Brazil to Brazilian, has a lot of courage and determination and of course faith in the Brazilian cuisine.

 

Photo Credit: Picture 1 – 4 Rubens Kato

 

Is it very difficult to make an authorial cuisine in a city outside the gastronomic axis of Brazil? Is there audience for this in your area?

Cooking is a great art – the most sensitive of the arts – because it comes into direct contact with the five human senses. It involves creativity and a complete sensory exploration that takes the diner to unforgettable moments.

In the beginning we had a hard time, but Curitiba welcomed us, so I started Manu and our work with small producers. We do not have as much presence and attention as a restaurant in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, but I am satisfied with the gastromic development of the city.

 

How do you define the Manu restaurant?

The restaurant is a small restaurant, it has only 20 seats and we work with tasting menus that vary according to Mother Nature’s offer: we work with fresh, seasonal produce and respecting its time and its nature.

 

 

Sustainability plays an immense role in your kitchen. What are the most important steps to ensure sustainability in your work? 

It starts with the selection of suppliers: it is important to prioritize regional suppliers, as this contributes to the local economy and reduces the environmental impact of transport. 

As for the disposal of waste: We have to think outside the restaurant, for example, what happens to the garbage? By composting, we also turn food into fertilizer. One of the benefits of composting is that less organic waste is dumped in landfills. We have to think about it and take care of the city.

Stocks: Buying too much also harms a lot, because every time we buy supplies, the industry produces even more, so we only buy what we need for the week.

We’re also concerned with our team. A positive result depends heavily on how the team understands these issues. To keep the team informed and encouraged, we regularly hold meetings, lectures or trainings that address the topic. It emphasizes the importance of promoting the rational use of natural resources and raw materials. We empower and encourage employees to use all resources sustainably and reward them for the goals they have achieved, which motivates employees.

My family comes from the countryside, my father encourages me with the techniques that help the land.

 

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Torrezan

 

What products do you use that are typical of the region, that would hardly be found fresh out of your city or state? 

There are products such as açaí palm heart, Moura breed pork, codium algae, manioc flour, local honey, mead. I try to use only local ingredients found in Paraná and neighboring Santa Catarina. We have an incredible product and producer chain with different types of agricultural management.

 

Can you mention some of Manu’s emblematic dishes that have marked their history or are often present in the menu?

Peanut. Sage. Coffee – A peanut ice cream hand-made (without machine) as in old days, without chemical or stabilizing.

Cauliflower. Fermented peanuts. Passion fruit. – A steamed cauliflower, served with fermented peanut and passion fruit native to Morretes village.

Seaweed and yogurt and mushroom. – Seaweed sauce, yogurt ice cream made with kefir and lactarius mushroom powder.

Lamb. Papaya. Codium seaweed. – Lamb tartar with smoked papaya and Codium seaweed.

 

Thank you so much, Chef Manu!

 

Chef Manu knows – cooking means to respect the time of everything.
What is your style of cooking? Show us your recipes with seasonal ingredients on Cook Concern!