Manoella Buffara on Tapping into Her Brazilian Heritage to Create Culinary Art
Creativity can come from the most unexpected of places. It can come from a book, your favorite show, something cheeky someone said, or the world around you.
For Chica Boss Manoella Buffara, she was inspired by her experiences growing up in her native Brazil, surrounded by the bountiful flora and fauna the landscape offered. Because of her immersive childhood, her passion for cooking began to grow.
Buffara tells People Chica, "My passion for cooking blossomed from my life in the countryside, where I was raised among goats, cows, crops, and a multitude of elements of nature. Through my father's lessons, I learned to value the land and animals, as well as to appreciate all that they offer us when treated with care and respect."
The Brazilian chef, who recently co-hosted a two-night takeover at MILA Omakase in Miami with Chef Michael Michaelidis, also explained how cooking "is an expression of love" for her, and in addition to honoring her roots, she wants to show the world just how much beauty Brazil's culinary scene possesses.
Whether they are chefs or mixologists, those within the culinary industry create art. What aspects of the artistry that can be found within creating dishes and original recipes speak to your soul? When did you realize this path would fulfill you the most?
Creativity, [the] harmony of flavors, aesthetic presentation, and the ability to convey emotion through food are artistic manifestations that speak to my soul in the creation of my dishes. I firmly believe that gastronomy goes beyond mere food, as it is capable of telling stories, expressing cultures, and awakening deep emotions in those who experience it, thus becoming an authentic form of artistic and cultural expression.
My passion for cooking blossomed from my life in the countryside, where I was raised among goats, cows, crops, and a multitude of elements of nature. Through my father's lessons, I learned to value the land and animals, as well as to appreciate all that they offer us when treated with care and respect.
With my grandmother, I discovered the importance of using our hands to feel temperatures, determine the cooking point, and understand the love needed in food preparation. In this way, my trajectory took shape, conquering and building the Manu kitchen.
In addition to creating visually stunning dishes, your recipes are rooted in the seasonality of the ingredients that compose each bite—something that lends itself to the Japanese Omakase dining tradition. You co-hosted a two-night takeover at MILA Omakase in Miami with Chef Michael Michaelidis; what drew you to this opportunity?
Cooking, for me, is an expression of love, knowledge, technique, authenticity, and respect. The gastronomic tradition of Omakase is something that fascinates me because of its appreciation for ingredients, respecting their seasonality, and giving special attention to the aesthetics of the dishes, technique, and culinary narrative.
Chef Michael is a French chef with extensive experience in Asia, and I believe that the fusion we are creating between my delicate cuisine with Latin ingredients, and his cuisine, which [is] also [delicate] but with more impactful Asian ingredients, results in a menu with a lot of personality. I am thrilled to be collaborating with him here at Mila Omakase, and I am certain it will be an amazing experience.
Female chefs have been getting increasingly recognized as the years progress—you have been named Latin America's Best Female Chef 2022 by The World's 50 Best Restaurants. How do you hope to continue giving visibility to women everywhere through your work?
This award is much more than recognition of the menu I serve every night at my restaurant, it shows that I had the courage to dream and go after my dreams, and I hope to inspire more women to work hard and fight for their dreams. I have two daughters, I closely follow their development, and I know how much they dedicate themselves, the effort they make every day to get out of bed warm and immerse themselves in this big world, [and] how attentive they are to this world we live in.
I am very happy to be receiving this award and that my daughters and all girls of their age see a big girl like them in this prominent position. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and it's great to be here and now and receive this recognition. I believe I need to use my name and the microphone I have in my hands to help people and improve the world we are living in.
What is something you wish to show the world about Brazilian cuisine?
For me, showing the variety and potency of the ingredients we have at our fingertips is the most important thing. Brazil is a vast country full of ingredients with incredible flavors and textures! I want to continue sharing with the world my story, my origin, my culture, and, above all, the incredible ingredients that we have at our disposal.
The restaurant industry is not for the faint of heart. What is a piece of advice you'd give someone interested in stepping into the kitchen?
First, believe in your dreams, and know that it's hard to play. As I like to say, being here isn't about luck it's about dreaming big and a lot of hard work. I think the biggest challenge as a chef in the industry was the hard work.
It takes a lot of cleaning shrimp, peeling carrots and potatoes, cleaning ovens, and cooking to get here. The beginning is difficult. You'll be working long nights while your friends and family are partying elsewhere. I face it with resilience and faith.