Helena Rizzo – who hails from Porto Alegre, was born in 1978, the daughter of Ivone, an artist, and Roberto, an engineer. She dabbled in architecture during a brief stint at university. At 18,she decided to leave the family home and move to São Paulo.
While working at jobs like modeling, she was a waitress for the caterer Neka Menna Barreto and intern in the kitchen for the restaurants Roanne, by Emmanuel Bassoleil, and Gero, by GrupoFasano. After being invited to head the kitchen at Na Mata Café, it began to dawn on her that perhaps gastronomy was her field. At 21, she saved up some money, packed up the notebookshe used for drawing and recording her dreams, and set off for Europe. She worked as an internat the restaurants La Torre and Sadler, in Italy.
One day, she went out for dinner with friends at the famous El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona(Spain), and everything began to make sense. At that moment, she grasped that food could be a form of artistic expression and not just rote, monotonous work, as had been her experience up to that point. After a lot of convincing, she got a “yes” from Joan Roca, one of the owners. In the kitchen at Celler, she tamed her anxiety. Helena spent four months at the restaurant in Girona and a year at Moo, a restaurant owned by the Roca family in Barcelona. It was at Celler that she met Daniel Redondo, chef de cuisine at the time. She fell in love.
After returning to São Paulo, she received an offer from friends to open a restaurant. She invited Daniel to move to Brazil and share the kitchen with her. In 2006, Maní was born. At the restaurant, they create contemporary cuisine deeply rooted in ingredients symbolic of Brazilian cooking. Their creations, at time extravagant, at times straight forward, reflect memories and love. Helena still draws in her notebook and, once in a while, on Maní’s walls.
Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210,
Jardim Paulistano, São Paulo – SP | CEP 05415-010, Brazil