Le Cordon Bleu Adelaide Alumna Patricia d’Avila is a personal chef for Ipanema Kitchen and a Branch Coordinator for Meals on Wheels SA. Learn about Patricia’s journey from Brazil to Australia as she discovers her passion for changing lives through food.
I am originally from Brazil, but I have an Italian background. I initially worked for 15 years in communications and public relations in Brazil, involved with community projects. I loved it, but I wanted to do something different in my life and cooking was something I was always drawn to. So, we sold everything we had and started a brand-new life in Australia.
Cooking for me is a family tradition. My family are used to having a kitchen full of people eating, cooking and speaking all at the same time. I didn’t realise that was a big part of who I am as well. Working in communications was very natural in my life, but I realised how much I love to cook. I always had parties at home just as an excuse to cook food for people.
I wanted to learn more about refining flavours, combining ingredients and perfecting seasonings. I started to research Le Cordon Bleu. I saw there were campuses in Australia and had heard that Australia is in some ways similar to Brazil, with the weather and nature. So, in 2015 we came here so I could study at Le Cordon Bleu Australia and the plan was to go back to Brazil afterwards. But we fell in love with Adelaide. It was the best decision to stay. The people here are so lovely, they are very open to people from other countries, and we feel very at home.
I studied a Diplôme de Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Adelaide. I was learning how to speak English as well as doing my studies. It was a challenge at first, but it got easier. My husband and I were both learning a new culture as well as a new profession. I made good friends for life during my time at Le Cordon Bleu and we are all still in contact. I couldn’t be happier that I chose Le Cordon Bleu. It is the most famous cooking school in the world. It has over 100 years of experience and I am very proud to be Le Cordon Bleu alumni - we are just different. We [alumni] know what we are doing and are trusted because we studied at Le Cordon Bleu.
I got a job before I even graduated. I was a chef at Adelaide Oval for nearly five years. I was also having fun baking cakes and selling them on the side for my business, Pati Cakes. After the success of Pati Cakes, I was invited by a friend to cook at a birthday dinner and I realised, if I am going to cook for dinner parties, then I want to do it properly. I embarked on a new chapter of my life and started up a business as a personal chef. I love to cook for small groups, like maximum 10 people, because I can take care of each one of them and be a host. I like to see people enjoying my food and I love the social interaction. That was an amazing revelation.
In 2021 I started setting up everything for my business. I really wanted to come up with a name that expressed the connection with Brazil. I'm from Porto Alegre, south of Brazil, but I lived in Rio and Ipanema was my favourite place there. It brings me that Brazilian feeling – the sun and the hot weather. I think my cooking reflects that. It’s a bit hot, a bit sunny and happy. The name is like my ‘flavour’, like a taste of home. So, I called my personal chef business Ipanema Kitchen.
During this time, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer. I am very fortunate it was detected early following an unrelated surgery, but breast cancer is still a taboo and people are dying mainly because of silence, prejudice, and fear. Information is the only way to raise awareness to early detection, and I want to help others by sharing my own experience through my Instagram.
Because of this, and the delay in setting up Ipanema Kitchen, I also found my calling in helping others through food. Within months, I started a new role at Meals on Wheels SA as Branch Coordinator. I'm now running a kitchen part-time that prepares up to 100 meals a day to be delivered to seniors in Adelaide. It has been very rewarding. In-between, I found a balance with Ipanema Kitchen too. I’ve been preparing dinners for a family whose mother is disabled. It is so fulfilling being able to help people as a personal chef and it is wonderful to see that I can help improve someone’s quality of life through my cooking. I think I finally found my place in the culinary industry and I am loving it.
When people want to have a dinner party but they don’t want to cook or don’t know how to cook, they call me. They give me some ideas on what dishes they would love to try. I create a few menu ideas for them to choose from, we make any adjustments, then I buy and prepare the ingredients for me to cook in their home kitchen. The guests can finish eating whenever they want, they’re surrounded by good company and they’re having restaurant quality food made in the comfort of their own home.
My specialty is cooking Italian food because I was raised with an Italian background. I love pastas and sauces. But I also like to be challenged with discovering new foods and learning new dishes. For example, I had a recent client book a lunch for 10 people for a birthday. The request was vegan and Polish cuisine. So, I had the opportunity to learn about vegan Polish food and create a menu for them, which I was very happy about. I like to adapt special menus depending on what the party wants.
I now feel complete and I am happy to grow with Ipanema Kitchen and Meals on Wheels. I get to use my experience in communications, as well as my knowledge in food. Within the next year, I also plan to partner with a nutritionist and launch a new service with Ipanema Kitchen for people with special dietary needs. I am very grateful as my time as a commercial chef. It helped me realise my personal relationship with food represents care and love. I like to take my time, enjoy the process and season my cuisine based on my experience and my own personal touch.
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