Chef’s Corner: Maria De Jesus
Chef’s Corner is a new feature that I’ve been eager to fire up for some time now. The way it works is real simple – I interview chefs from restaurants in Macau that I rate highly and enjoy going to. If I’m not a fan of the place, they won’t be getting the call, no matter how well known or well received it might be.
For the first installment, let’s start off with someone who I consider a dear friend of mine, Maria de Jesus, from Yes Brazil.
Good afternoon Maria, can you tell everyone where you’re from?
I’m from Brazil.
When did you come to Macau?
I came here in 1990.
What brought you to Macau?
Because my kid’s father is from Macau. He is a mix of Italian and Chinese. My father in law asked me to come here to give a good life to my kids. That’s why I came to Macau.
When did you open Yes Brazil?
At this location, in 1997. But before I did other things. I worked with Thai people and I used to sell furniture to the local Portuguese.
When did your first location open?
It opened in 1995. At that place, I only had 4 tables.
What made you decide to open your own restaurant?
At that time my friend asked me to do a partnership. He was a rich man, but for me, something like that was my life. And he said he just made a joke. I said, Sorry, for you it is a joke. For me, it is my life. We started and had a good business but me and him, we argued over money, over rumours, over those kinds of things. And then I got very very angry. That’s when I left everything and started my own place.
I know you cook all the food here. How did you learn to cook?
Because I love cooking and I know about myself. If I see things one time, I can catch on.
So no one taught you, you just learned by yourself?
Yes. Because when you love cooking, you can do it.
Is it easy to make the food in the same way that people cook it in Brazil?
It’s very hard because many things we don’t have here. As we say in Brazil, when we don’t have a dog, we have a cat, and then try to do the best. But it’s still not that different because I know how to cook the meat, the fish and then I try my best to make the people very happy.
One thing I like are your black beans. Are they the same as in Brazil?
No, in Brazil, we have many kinds of beans: black beans, yellow beans, white beans, brown beans, green beans. We have around 8 to 10 high quality beans. But in Macau, we don’t have this.
I know the difference in the Chinese black beans and Malaysian black beans. I just touch them and know. Chinese beans are green and sweet, but the Western people don’t like sweet beans, only Chinese. Sometimes I give them the black beans and they don’t like them.
I make them in my way, but I respect the Chinese way.
At Yes Brazil, you have four main dishes: chicken, fish, pork chops and steak…
Yes, but I also have others. I have feijoada, moqueca, and vatepa. They are available through special orders.
Of the four main dishes available for order everyday, is there one dish that is the most popular?
The steak is very popular in Brazil with everything, with rice, with mashed potatoes, or French Fries and eggs. But when Brazilian people come here, they order everything.
You’ve recently added some new things to the menu, the shrimp, the spaghetti and the French fries. Why did you add these things?
Because Chinese like these things. And Chinese like noodles. I make the noodles in a different way. For the Chinese I make them in the Chinese way. For Brazilians, I make them in the Brazilian way.
What’s the Chinese way of making the noodles?
They like them not very sour, and a little bit sweet, with pork, chicken, beef or shrimp.
For me, your special order dishes, like the feijoada, moqueca, and vatepa, are the best things you make. Can you explain what each one is?
Feijoada is a black bean stew made with beans and meat, vatepa is shrimp with nuts and moqueca is fish simmered in coconut milk.
Why don’t you make them everyday?
Because mainland Chinese people don’t want them. The people from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, even Beijingers, they like moqueca, they like to try different food.
Who are your main customers at Yes Brazil?
It’s a mix, you know, we get everyone here, all kinds of people.
The hours here a bit strange. When is your closing time?
Usually about 5:30, but if there are people here, I will stay open longer.
Why not stay open for dinner?
Because there won’t be people here. All the visitors go to the hotel, to the casinos.
For you personally, do you have a favorite dish you think tastes great?
The best for me is the beef and cow liver. Forget pork and chicken is okay, but I love liver. Sometimes I just buy it and eat and cook it and it’s very good.
Lets finish with one question about Macau now. You’ve been in Macau a long time. Do you think Macau is getting better or worse?
I love the Macau government. Because even my country, that government is not like Macau. This government is really very nice. The people sometimes talk against them, but I don’t like it, because in my country, I don’t have a government like Macau. Here I have doctors, I have health, I have safety and in Brazil, I don’t have these things.