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A Quiet Love, Cooking Snuck Up on Brazilian Chef Manu Buffara

By Leigh O’Connor, Editor.

Manu Buffara’s culinary career began to take shape after a trip to the United States, where she worked in a ski resort restaurant near Seattle and realised how food can change people’s moods.

Studying journalism at the time, Manu was captivated by hospitality and decided to pursue culinary arts after completing her journalism degree.

Fast forward to 2022 and this accomplished cook was named Latin America’s best female Chef, along with owning and operating her Brazilian restaurant Manu, which was voted number 35 in Latin America’s 50 best restaurants the following year.

Now Down Under as a guest at Vivid Sydney 2024 and part of the Vivid Residence programme, Manu will take over Peter Conistis’ waterside venue Ploós, presenting a menu inspired by Brazil using local Australian ingredients.

A Quiet Love, Cooking Snuck Up on Brazilian Chef Manu Buffara
We had the opportunity to chat with Manu exclusively about what Sydney diners can expect at Vivid, which runs from May 24 to June 15:

"The exclusive dish I plan to serve is an original creation involving the classic carrot, transformed with techniques and ideas from my restaurant Manu in Brazil,” she explains. "These elements will be enhanced with local influences through our collaboration with Chef Peter Conistis, creating a unique culinary experience in Sydney.”

Cooking came to Manu as one of those quiet loves – she was 18 years old and had just finished the first semester of her journalism course when she decided to spend the holidays working at a Seattle ski resort.

Starting with a position in room service, Manu was invited to work as a kitchen assistant – her first task proved a disaster when asked to debone a chicken she broke all of the bones in the process.

"I ended up learning how to grill sophisticated burgers and learning elegant dishes.”
A Quiet Love, Cooking Snuck Up on Brazilian Chef Manu Buffara

She spent the Summer surviving on little money, hitchhiking and sleeping at campsites in Alaska:

"I shared the bed of a truck with dozens of dogs on a long journey and spent a month fishing for halibut. I’m very proud of my skills in cleaning and filleting a fish. I still remember rinsing my hair for the first time after being at sea for what seemed like centuries.”

After a stint travelling around Europe, Manu returned to Brazil a different person:

"I no longer fit into the small life I had before in Curitiba and no longer wanted to study journalism. I was hooked by hospitality, I believed in people and understood that we could do good by serving people.

"My family did not immediately accept my new path in life and made me finish my journalism course in case my passion for the kitchen was just another Summer love but Mothers know their children’s souls and mine understood I had already found my path.”

Manu’s restaurant is located in Curitiba, a city surrounded by sea and mountains, which allows her to use unique and fresh ingredients from these regions.

"Guests at Manu can expect an experience that values the moment at the table, without interruptions from cell phones or external concerns, focusing on sharing a meal that can be transformative.

"I believe that good food can truly save the day and that’s what I try to convey with every dish.”
A Quiet Love, Cooking Snuck Up on Brazilian Chef Manu Buffara

She also believes the popularity of Latin American food stems from its rich diversity of flavours and ingredients, reflecting a vibrant mix of indigenous, African and European cultures – the dishes are not only tasty but also visually appealing, often served in a way that encourages sharing and celebrates community.

Try these two spectacular recipes for tomatoes, acerola and herbs and tucupi, coconut and yoghurt that Manu shares with AGFG home cooks and decide for yourself!

As for the future, she is particularly excited about the idea of writing a book on children’s nutrition to help establish healthy eating habits from an early age and dreams of creating a farm focused on regenerative and sustainable agriculture, accessible to communities and students.
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