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We sit at the table with our Pastry Chef Ana Macedo

Ana Macedo, the sweet alchemist who comes from a “true” Portuguese family, is passionate about what she does and can find happiness in the smallest things.

A woman of few words, but always attentive and observant.

You are the chef alchemist of the sweet world of O Paparico. When did the pastry appear in your life?

Ana Macedo (AM): The pastry appeared at a very particular time in my life. I think that those who come from a “true” Portuguese family, like me, have always lived with some connection to food. I always helped my mother to make the cakes on Sunday, in a very playful way. My task was to beat the egg whites in a castle and grease the baking pans. What a commis! In the end I could lick the raw dough that remained on the spoon. These are memories that I keep with great affection, but this was not the defining moment. During my adolescence I discovered that I loved painting and it was something to which I dedicated several hours of my day. I really liked to have followed Arts, but the pragmatism led me to choose Architecture. I soon realized that this was not my way, but only after a lot of hitting my head on the wall I decided to change. But change to what? What was I going to do? It was a process of intense search even because the answer didn't seem obvious to me. When there were friends' dinners, I was the one who made the dessert and it was in one of those that something started to change. I always followed a recipe and there was a day when I decided to make some impulse changes, without any technical knowledge, to something I thought would work better. And it worked! From then on, I started doing research, looking for information, wanting to know more to put into practice. It was at the same time that Raymond Blanc's programs were running, with their precious tips and contagious enthusiasm. Until I did a macaroni workshop, which didn't go well, but even so I realized that that was my way. It was the feeling I had for doing something that was giving me immense pleasure and fun. After that, I signed up for hotel school. I threw myself on my head.

How did you and O Paparico cross roads and what does it mean to you?

AM: I already knew O Paparico as a reference of restaurant industry in Porto, well before I worked there and when the opportunity arose, after seeing an ad where they were looking for a baker, I applied. At the time I was in Lisbon doing my final apprenticeship and Sara Costa called me to schedule an interview. She told me to show up on a Friday, the day the interviews were over, but I was working from Tuesday to Saturday, in another city. I asked a lot to postpone to Sunday or Monday, I would go on purpose to Porto for this interview. So it was, and I stayed, 3 and a half years ago. This attitude is also defining my path in O Paparico and what it represents for me. O Paparico, at a more umbilical level, is the validation of my life choice, it is the place where I was sure I made the right choice, it is a constant path of evolution and overcoming myself. On a professional level it is extremely challenging. I identify a lot with the concept, I find something really special to elevate what we have so much of our own that is our gastronomy and bring it to the contemporary, without losing its essence. O Paparico for me is made of stories that are the knowledge of our culture, our territory, our products and our recipes. It is very good to welcome and serve. All this requires a lot of research and study. The creative freedom we have is the world at our feet. The concept imposes goals, but never obstacles. It is not an easy path, but it is very rewarding.

Politeness and creativity are words that represent and are visible in everything you develop. What are your main influences, what inspires you and how do you select the products you use?

AM: I have many influences and what inspires me is very relative. It can be an excerpt from history, it can be a daily situation, a moment in my life, a product, seasonality, a technique I want to use, even a conversation can be a source of inspiration. I am very permeable and attentive to what surrounds me, but I also try to know more, not only about pastry/kitchen, but about other domains. This stimulus is fundamental to be able to make connections and form opinions. The last moment of my interview for O Paparico was to say a phrase that defines me, I used Fernando Pessoa's words: "I am the size of what I see and not the size of my height". This is a motto for me. Creativity is what we see and seek, what we experience and what we take from it, that's why it's so individual. The influences are diverse, both in gastronomy and in other areas. In cooking and pastry, I look for them in various ways, but if I had to say the three main ones of this moment: Frantzén, Francisco Migoya and the eternal Pierre Hermé. As far as products are concerned, seasonality is the choice. It is fundamental that the raw material is at its peak of quality and that it is the best we can do. If there was gold on the sidewalk stones, long ago the sidewalks would be of earth.

You have now been in training at the Chocolate Academy of CalleBaut in Belgium for one year. What have you brought from this experience?

AM: I loved those two days! The smell of cocoa and hot chocolate around the school, as soon as we arrived are the best welcome! I went to a chocolate initiation course where themes like the history of chocolate, various types of tempering, chocolates, packaging, ganaches, among others, were discussed. Nothing was new to me. I had already approached these topics at school, I saw Fábio Quiraz many times making chocolates from beginning to end, I looked into the topic, but I defend that to master something and be able to go further, we have to have very strong foundations. Without them, we are a house of cards on the brink of collapse. It doesn't matter to know all the current techniques and to be on the crest of the wave if the bases don't exist or are weak. This quickly goes out of fashion and becomes obsolete. What is never obsolete is knowledge. And that's what I brought from this training, solid foundations to be able to work the chocolate with confidence and continue to evolve in my path.

If we had to choose a few words, to reveal a little of your personality they would be: friendly, serious, methodical, organized and creative. But who is Ana Macedo when nobody is watching?

AM: I'm the organized person who has the room always messed up! I'm the same person in essence. I am the result of a demanding and rigorous education, but with room for emotions. Very methodical and organized in my work, but with moments of reverie and decompression. Passionate about what I do, I can find happiness in the smallest things. Some people say I'm crazy for talking to the puff pastry and other preparations, I say it's a part of the relationship I establish with what I do and the taste I have in making them. I soon learned about discipline, surrender, moral and ethical values, perseverance, resilience, which always accompany me. Nevertheless, I have in me the vulnerability that allows me to feel. I am extremely demanding of myself, not only professionally, but also on a personal level. I don't point my finger at anyone without first pointing at myself and realizing if I do the same. It is a difficult exercise. Many times, what we criticize in others is also part of us and I use it to improve every day. I'm the first to blame myself for a mistake made and the last to clap my hands for an achievement. Woman of few words, but attentive and observant. I take nothing for granted.

 

Translated by DeepL

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