Helena Rizzo 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 notebook she used for drawing and recording her dreams and set off for Europe. She worked as an intern at the restaurants La Torre and Sadler, in Italy.
The dinner that changed her life
In a dinner with friends at the famous El Celler de Can Roca everything began to make sense. At that moment, Helena Rizzo 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. She 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.
A Fusion of Brazilian with European cuisine on center stage
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 times extravagant, at times straightforward, reflect memories and love. Helena still draws in her notebook and, once in a while, on Maní’s walls.
“I can be inspired by an ingredient, I can be inspired by a trip. I can be reading something interesting and that leads me to think of an idea for a dish”.Helena Rizzo
Helena has always wanted to see the world, learn new things, and find that one extraordinary love in her life. As someone who sees the natural beauty in almost everything, her path led her from studying architecture to modeling to her biggest passion – cooking. She has lived and worked in different European cities and learned from the best – not just taking notes on cuisine, but also on lifestyle and life philosophy.