Check out the story of chefs who met at work and started a relationship – Paladar

Chef couple Ygor Lopes and Walkyria Fagundes cook together in their restaurants and in their homes Photo: Alex Silva/Estadão

Working together with your partner doesn’t always work – it can embitter the relationship. But just as they know how to season their dishes well, chefs are experts at keeping bitterness well away from personal relationships.

The partnership in life and in the kitchen can work (a lot!) Ygor Lopes and Walkyria Fagundes, who command the AE Kitchen, in São Paulo, met eight years ago in the kitchen of Epice, former restaurant owned by chef Alberto Landgraf. “Afterwards, we worked separately for a year”, says Walkyria. But Ygor’s dishes and Walkyria’s sweets always got along on the same menu – and the couple decided to open a restaurant.

The beginning was not easy, and business problems came to interfere at home. “In the first year, we lived in the same building as the restaurant. We slept together, worked together, all in the same place. The budget was low, there was a lot of stress”, says Walkyria. “Ygor is a workaholic, he only talked about work; I wanted to hit him,” he jokes.

From the world to Brazil

Before opening AE Cozinha, Ygor and Walkyria spent a year in Spain. They decided to return to their homeland to open their own home. Something similar happened with two other couples of chefs: Eduardo Nava Ortiz and Luana Sabino, from Metziand Katrin and Dante Bassi, from Mango, in Salvador. For them, the decision for Brazil was special: Eduardo is Mexican, Katrin is German, and their partners are Brazilian.

Katrin and Dante Bassi, from Manga, in Salvador

Katrin and Dante Bassi, from Manga, in Salvador Photo: Leonardo Freire

Katrin has already been to Brazilian lands before her wedding: she met Dante when the two worked at DOM, owned by chef Alex Atala. Having a restaurant together was never exactly a goal – but it became a good plan when they decided to have kids. “We always wanted to have two or three children, one after the other,” says Dante. “With the arrival of the first, we realized that it would be very difficult to reconcile our routine in the kitchen with a child. Opening our restaurant was the solution: the routine is still very busy, but the children can stay close by”.

Katrin says that the plan was to stay close to the families, to have a support network in the care of the children. “We wanted a restaurant in Ravensburg, my city in Germany, and one in Salvador, which is Dante’s city”.

Everything went well: Katrin and Dante live, with their three children, on top of Manga. Work and personal life are constantly intermingled – and that was never a problem.

It is also not an issue for Eduardo and Luana. At Metzi, the two create four-handed dishes. “I think we managed to separate things well, because we were friends and co-workers for a year, before we started our relationship”, says Luana.

The couple of chefs Luana Sabino and Eduardo Nava Ortiz, from the Mertzi restaurant

The couple of chefs Luana Sabino and Eduardo Nava Ortiz, from the Mertzi restaurant Photo: TABA BENEDICTO/ESTADÃO

The two met at the Cosme restaurant in New York, which specializes in Mexican cuisine. The decision to come to Brazil to open his own restaurant was more logical than sentimental. “When I came to Brazil to visit my family, I really missed the food in Mexico and the food we used to make in New York. We realized that here would be a good market for our kitchen”, recalls Luana.

The cultural differences between Brazil and Mexico are what give a very special flavor to the chefs’ partnership. “I go after the ingredients and show Eduardo how they can be used here. He brings a version of how they are used in Mexico”, says Luana. “I contribute with my Brazilian experience, of getting to know the people here. I know the flavors that Brazilian customers reject, even if they are very well accepted in Mexico”.

Partnership also works well in personal life. But just like Ygor and Walkyria, they had some sparks at first. “We were opening Metzi when the pandemic hit. We had to postpone the opening. Eduardo had difficulties with Portuguese at first, we need a spokesperson… We had a tantrum”, he jokes.

time off from the kitchen

The possibility of being able to leave the house, with the improvement of the pandemic, was good for Luana and Eduardo. “As we arrived in São Paulo at the height of the pandemic, we didn’t get to know many things. Today, we take advantage of our time off to go out, discover new places,” she says. At home, she doesn’t have to cook – Eduardo, on the other hand, likes to cook from time to time.

Ygor and Walkyria don’t care about the pots inside the house either. “We make tea, wash salads, pass coffee”, laughs Ygor. On their days off, the couple prefers to practice sports, such as tennis and beach volleyball.

To harness the energy of their three children, Katrin and Dante don’t spend much time in the kitchen either. “When we have a vacation, or a longer period of time off, we cook,” says Dante. “Other than that, it’s more practical for the kids: pasta, salad, sandwiches… we also like to make a fire on the porch and cook with the kids there”.

That’s because it’s not just good food that love is transmitted. And the chefs know how to balance all the dishes, so that everything works out.

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