Drawn to the City: Patricia d’Ávila, the chef

From the world of PR and communications in Brazil to the commercial kitchens of Adelaide Oval, Patricia d’Ávila made a mighty career change when she moved countries.

“I’ve always had a passion for food,” says d’Ávila, who is one of 60 chefs working at Adelaide Oval. “I thought, ‘I’d love to learn more about food – proper food, and do that at a professional level.’” Before her career change, d’Ávila had put together an impressive 15-year career in public relations in Brazil. Initially drawn to Sydney after making the move to Australia, d’Ávila discovered the Harbour City wasn’t quite what she and her husband were looking for.

“We didn’t have time for us; to enjoy life together,” she says. “So, we were a bit crazy and decided to move and study something completely different in a totally new place. We decided on Adelaide when visiting on a holiday and we just fell in love with the place.”

Glenelg has since become d’Ávila’s home; its history, coastline and trams capturing her imagination. “Brazilians love the beach, so there is no way we can be away from that.”

It is not only the history and beauty of Adelaide that has captured her enthusiasm, but the attitudes she sees expressed here. “Of course, I am a feminist,” d’Ávila says, “and, for me, Adelaide is the kind of place where women can make their own decisions.” For d’Ávila, Adelaide’s multiculturalism is also something she observes with pride. “It is beautiful to see how people are treated here and I, too, feel very welcome.”

After arriving in Australia, d’Ávila dived head-first into studying English while working in restaurants, waiting tables and getting the lay of the land in hospitality. Later, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu here in Adelaide; completing a Diplôme de Commis Cuisinier, Certificate III in Commercial Cookery.

Soon after completing her course, d’Ávila began her current role as chef in the busy Adelaide Oval kitchen. “Every day is different. It’s not just matches [that keep the kitchen busy], but corporate events, birthdays and, of course, weddings.”

To manage these different events, the Oval’s kitchen is divided into three sections: corporate, functions and retail. The Adelaide Oval kitchen often manages up to 10 events at once with an impressive team of more than 60 chefs. “I am very proud to work at the Adelaide Oval,” she says. “Seeing entire families coming together to see the football is beautiful. The Oval is a ‘big house’ for Adelaideans.”

When cooking at home, d’Ávila loves to explore new flavours and practices what she has been observing in Adelaide but she is often drawn back to her roots and her favourite dish feijoada; a stew of rice and beans and meats, served with freshly steamed kale and cut oranges. “[In Brazil] you grow up with feijoada. It’s so simple but so good. When I make this dish, it feels like I am home again.”

The Adelaide Central Market is perhaps d’Ávila’s favourite place in her new home. “I have been to markets in Rio and Barcelona but the market here is so charming. I find the Central Market to be so warm and colourful, it has everything you need and then you can always find something interesting hidden away. For me, it is such a good portrait of Adelaide.”

Working as a chef in Adelaide, d’Ávila is very much falling in love with the unique produce and cultures of South Australia. New flavours and territories can often reveal more similarities than differences, and this is especially true of the classic barbecue. “Brazilians love their barbecues and Australians love their barbecues too, so it’s a very good fit.”

Patricia d'Avila by Leo Greenfield
Patricia d’Avila by Leo Greenfield

Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator

leogreenfield.com

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