Born in 1978, chef Felipe Bronze began working in the kitchens of some of Rio’s top restaurants at the age of sixteen and never looked back, studying at New York’s Culinary Institute of America and honing his trade in the recesses of some of the city’s best restaurants.
Having worked at carioca favourites Sushi Leblon and Zuka on his return to Brazil, he finally opened his own place, Z Contemporâneo in 2004, picking up awards for fun before choosing to duck out at the top. Then, in late 2010, he inaugurated Oro in the growing culinary hub that is Jardim Botânico after five years out of the steamy kitchen environment taking full control and planning the team to create his ideal restaurant.
What experiences did you bring from Z Contemporâneo to Oro?
I learned that you have to pay all the attention in the world when it comes to doing business with people. At Z I was too excited and I thought that the differences between me and my partners wouldn’t cause problems, but I was wrong. This time around I would have more than ten meetings with people before finalising a deal.
You have to be cautious, find people that add something and grow with what you have already. (Decoration professional) Maneco Quinderé, for example, is my close partner and worked with me at Z, but this time around I was involved every step of the way with the technical details, and everything had to be passed by me.
You worked in the family business making airline meals at Santos Dumont airport and then studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. How did those experiences contribute to your development?
The family business was at the start of professional catering on planes. Before it was all sandwiches (as it has become again now). I used to help with the menus and so on, it helped me to understand the basics of a business. Then in New York, aged 18, I discovered a whole new world. For two years I lived a totally new reality.
You learn a lot when you live abroad, gain a lot of experience. The great thing was that it was pretty much all practical too - we were in the kitchen for ten hours a day and produced a daily menu for students in other classes on different modules. We had to have restaurant timing because they depended on us. We learned the importance of washing up, leaving the kitchen clean, important basics. Of course we would make a mess, but you have to become clever with your mess. And of course, I worked in some fine restaurants, which also gave me a big boost.
What do you think of the culinary rivalry between Rio and São Paulo? Do you think the food there is superior to here?
I think its complete nonsense. People love to talk about the rivalry but it doesn’t make any sense to me. The essence of São Paulo is from another planet, it doesn’t make sense to compare the two. I think the level of service in São Paulo is in front, but we also have great restaurants here.
In the United States, if you go to a place in Boston they'll recommend a restaurant in New York, its how they work. In Spain too, there needs to be togetherness for them to stand out and move forward. The new avant-garde Spanish cuisine is proof. You need to worry about what the new guys are coming with and see them as personal successors not as enemies.
Oro is located at Rua Frei Leandro 20, Jardim Botânico (2266 7591/ororestaurante.com)