INSIDER INSIGHTS by Douglas Van Der Ley
RG: Douglas Van Der Ley is one of the best chefs in Brazil. He was born and grew up in Recife. Despite his world-class talent, which could have taken him anywhere, he chose to remain in Recife, where he runs his restaurant É and consults with other gastronomic enterprises. His business is expanding to other regions, and recently he formed a partnership with a restaurateur in Salvador. He also has his sights set on a future restaurant opening in São Paulo, and projects in the pipeline include a festival of gastronomy and the publication of his first book. Douglas lives in Boa Viagem and was happy to be interviewed for INSIDER INSIGHTS, giving his perspective on what makes the region special, and giving his tips for visitors.
RG: What are your links with the region?
DV: I have been a chef here for eight years and, through my restaurant È and the concepts I am a consultant to, which include the new IT brassiere in the fashion store Donna Santos. I have enjoyed being a pioneer in the dynamic restaurant scene here. In the last decade, I have seen local interest in gastronomy grow and become much more sophisticated. Recife is now a destination for people who like great food, and I am proud to be a part of this development.
RG: What do you think is special about the region?
DV: Other regions of Brazil have strong local cultures but none are as strong, deep and diverse as that of the state of Pernambuco. The more you get to know it, the more you realise how much there is to know. The region’s colonial history and diverse ethnic groups (Europeans, Africans and Indigenous Brazilians) have influenced many musical and cultural traditions that people are still extremely proud of. In other cities such traditions have been evolved, modernized and commercialized. In Pernambuco, they have hardly changed at all. They are so strong that they have not needed to. This is most evident during Carnival, but you can see signs of it every day throughout the year. It is a source of great pride for people of the state, and a pride that I also feel.
RG: What keeps you in Recife?
DV: Having lived here all my life I obviously have very strong connections with family and friends. The businesses and the opportunities I see here also are an important factor. So, are my clients, most of whom are loyal, and many are also friends.
RG: What are your favourite areas of the city?
DV: Boa Viagem. I live there, and I love to take a walk on the beach, drink coconut water and catch up with friends at the hotspot in the centre of the beach, in front of Acaiaca, a landmark block of apartments on the avenue.
RG: What are your favourite places to visit?
DV: Olinda is a very special place, because of its history, its architecture, its people and the artisans. It is a unique experience in the region, and I love to be there. Another really special place is Oficina Francisco Brennand: the sculptures, the gardens, the gallery — a truly remarkable place.
RG: When you are not working in your own restaurant, which others would you visit and recommend?
DV: For breakfast, Pousada do Amparo, Olinda; for lunch or Happy Hour Wiella Bistro, Boa Viagem; for dinner Maison du Bomfim or Due, both in Olinda; and for regional food Cantinho da Paz, Candeias.
RG: Can you recommend bars that you like?
DV: The place I like is almost next door to the restaurant. Bar da Praia, Boa Viagem, is a good spot on Av. Boa Viagem.
RG: If someone was visiting the region for the first time what would you say they “must do”?
DV: I would say they must visit Olinda, Oficina Francisco Bennand, Maracaipe and Carneiros beaches, and of course, enjoy the gastronomic experiences that the region offers.
A Profile of Douglas, his restaurant É, and his other gastronomic ventures, will be added to the Recife Guide MAGAZINE soon.