Alumna Caroline Martins
Diplôme de Cuisine
After taking part in MasterChef Brazil, Caroline moved to London to study at Le Cordon Bleu. After graduating, she went on to work in some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Caroline moved to Manchester in early 2020 where she worked as a private chef for various public figures. In 2022, Caroline appeared on the BBC’s Great British Menu, representing the north-west region.
She is now focused on introducing haute Brazilian cuisine to the UK with her residency, Sao Paulo currently held at Blossom Street Social in Manchester’s trendy Ancoats district. Offering a regularly changing menu, it showcases the best locally-sourced ingredients alongside traditional Brazilian flavours to bring truly unique British-Brazilian fusion dishes to Manchester.
Here we chat to Caroline about her journey into the culinary arts and what she has planned for the future.
When did you realise you wanted to become a chef?
"I think I've always been inspired by food. When I was a child, for example, I vividly remember helping my grandmother baking sourdough bread in her kitchen. It's a memory that I cherish and without her kind way and passion for food, I'm not sure I'd have taken the jump from my previous academic career in physics to becoming a chef. In fact, I still have a sourdough starter that she passed down to me and that I use in the restaurant today."
Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?
"Simply because it is one of the best, if not the best, cooking schools in the world. I've found that chefs are taken seriously when they graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, and the teaching ensures they are ready for whatever recipes and ingredients are thrown their way."
How has what you learned at Le Cordon Bleu London helped your career?
"I've learned perhaps the most important methods for my style of cooking: the basics of French techniques. I've found that even the most sophisticated molecular gastronomy techniques rely heavily on the basics."
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in one sentence?
"It is an institution that not only opens your mind when it comes to cooking, but also embraces you as a member of its family."
Can you tell us about your Sao Paulo project?
"Sao Paulo Project is my residency, currently located at Blossom Street Social in the Ancoats district of Manchester. My aim has been to take an innovative approach to Brazilian and British fusion cuisine, with a focus on quality locally sourced ingredients, show-stopping flavours, and beautiful presentation."
What inspired you to bring Brazilian cuisine to Manchester?
"When I moved to Manchester in early 2020, I quickly found there was a lack of representation for quality Brazilian cuisine in the city - especially when there are so many Brazilians, people who love Latin American cuisine, and general foodies living here. Therefore, I was sure there was a gap in the market. On top of that, I've been inspired by the passion and friendliness of the people of Manchester; I really feel at home here and want to make it the birthplace of my Sao Paulo Project."
What does an average working day look like for you?
"In the morning I get my local ingredients delivered to my restaurant and, on certain days, working with my Brazilian supplier regarding the delivery of imported ingredients. I will then spend the day prepping everything from scratch for our opening at 4pm. From 4pm to 10pm, I will be cooking for my guests; crucially, I always try to greet everyone at their tables. I'm very grateful for the support that the people of Manchester have given me!"
You’ve taken part in both MasterChef and the Great British Menu, what do you enjoy about cookery competitions?
"It pushes limits and takes chefs out of their comfort zone. It really challenges any chef, both in terms of technique, creativity and working under pressure. I truly believe that when it comes to cooking, you are always in competition with yourself to become a better chef."
What would you say are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a chef?
"The biggest challenge I've encountered and heard about is around the bullying that can often occur in fine dining kitchens. It is especially tough, from what I've seen and heard, because it is such a male-dominated industry in terms of those running the kitchens. In terms of reward, getting a compliment from a guest or seeing someone smiling while eating my food. My aim is to always give people not just food, but something to remember."
What inspires you every day?
"Missing my home country inspires me every day. Instead of feeling sad, I reach for my happy memories (most of them occurred around food) and turn them into a dish. For example, I currently have a dessert based on a passion fruit mousse that I always used to eat as a child. Every time I make it now, the taste and smell take me back to spending my summers with my grandparents. I currently have an ethically-sourced foie gras and guava bonbon as a canape, and every time I make it takes me right back to my time as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in London, when I would watch and prepare foie gras globes in Chef Colin Westal's demo class."
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
"Stand up for yourself and don't let bullies take you down, especially if you are a woman. Fine dining kitchens are usually run like a military operation, which often leads to the disregarding of people's basic feelings and needs. Many fine dining kitchens make their staff work 15 hours a day for minimum wage (often less when unpaid overtime is added), and then try to make them believe that's the best that the industry can be. I understand that the incredible dishes that come out of fine dining restaurants require hard work and long preparation to create, but I still believe we can do better as an industry in terms of staff welfare and mental health. So, I would tell anyone to try and avoid toxic working environments and toxic senior chefs; don't allow that type of behaviour to be tolerated. We should all work to create an industry that has places of work that respects their staff for the creative, passionate and hard-working individuals that they are."
Finally, what are your plans for the future or any final words?
"My plans for the future include expanding my business -- I hope to open Brazilian/British cafes, offering Brazilian pastries and coffee from all over the 26 states of Brazil, and a delicious small plates menu. This would, of course, be something a bit simpler than what I'm doing with Sao Paulo Project, but that kind of dining - high class food and coffee in a more relaxed environment - is something that I'm also passionate about."
Inspired by Caroline's journey? Find out how you can follow in her footsteps by finding out more about our Diplôme de Cuisine, or by visiting our programmes page to view the full list of courses available and start your culinary journey today.