The Brazilian-born chef who loves the city’s diversity
Lead line chef, Local Three
I visited Atlanta probably in 2007. I came for a weekend and instantly fell in love with the city. It was springtime, and the Dogwood Festival was going on. But when I moved here from Gainesville, Florida, in December 2010, there was a snowstorm. I thought, I’ve moved just one state over in the South, not to Antarctica. It was pretty shocking.
I was born in Rio de Janeiro and lived there until I was eight years old. Then, my family moved to New York for a year. We thought it was way too cold, so we moved to the polar opposite—Miami, which is where I grew up. I went to school in Gainesville, then moved to Atlanta.
What I love mostly about Atlanta is the diversity here. I like seeing different cultures in one place, in one city. It’s nice to see a city that embraces it. You can see that in the art, the culinary scene. Now that the movie industry is coming to Atlanta, it is bringing even more diversity. I know Atlanta has different pockets—an Asian pocket, Buford Highway, Little Brazil in Marietta. It is kind of separated in that way. But I’ve always felt that I’m able to go anywhere.
Atlanta has all these little micro neighborhoods. I’ve almost never seen anything like it. Each one has their own personality. I’ve lived near Little Five Points, downtown, in Midtown, and in Vinings. Now, I live in West Highlands. And it’s almost like you’re going to different cities every time you go to these different neighborhoods.
When I was in school, I had my own fish tank installation and maintenance business. When the Georgia Aquarium was being built, it was the biggest aquarium in the world. I saw that they were hiring and joined the life-support team. I would make rounds checking all the equipment at night.
With that schedule, I didn’t have many opportunities to meet people. I had played a little bit of volleyball back in Florida, so I just Googled “Atlanta volleyball.” Then, I joined the Hotlanta Volleyball Association, and it completely changed my life. Most of my close friends today I met there, my little volleyball family. We often traveled to tournaments out of town.
I got into the culinary business because I’d always loved cooking. The culture of Brazil is all around food. If I were to go to my mom’s house right now, first thing she’d do is pop some cookies in the oven. She taught me how to cook. And Atlanta has such an amazing culinary industry that I’m pretty sure I’m here to stay for a long time. I guess I considered myself an Atlantan after I got through that first winter. There were two storms, back to back. After the second one, I thought, Okay, I got through this. I’m here to stay.