Flash-grilled: Juliana Kipper

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Juliana Kipper Brazilian-born head chef of El Santo in Glasgow's Merchant City

Related tags Chef Brazil Brazilian Cuisine Fine dining Glasgow

The Brazilian-born head chef of El Santo in Glasgow's Merchant City on getting her start in the industry, confronting gender imbalance, and why caviar is overrated.

What was your first industry job?
I had my own business catering for events and ceremonies. It taught me how to work to a budget and how to adhere to strict timings and deadlines. It was all about keeping the client happy – all good skills to master for when I then went on to cook in a professional kitchen. 

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I would probably still be in the events world, organising weddings, graduations and corporate events, as I very much enjoy this sector. Just as high pressured as cooking at a high level, but like being a chef, you gain a huge amount of satisfaction from seeing an event come together and from knowing that you have done the very best job you can do.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
There are many chefs I admire in the industry, such as Virgilio Martinez, Manu Buffara, Alex Atala, and Helena Rizzo, to name but a few. All of them have very different styles, but share and demonstrate respect for, and use of, local, seasonal ingredients. This is something that is very important to me in my cooking.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Professional kitchens are still predominantly male environments, which is sad. We need to see more females reaching the top positions and flourishing.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I have been very lucky in that my customers have always been very polite with me, I really can’t think of anything too strange.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Demonstrating a passion for the finest, most colourful, most flavourful Brazilian and South American food, cooked with love.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I once had a dish compared with a cheaper fast food, which was very disappointing as my food is not fast, requiring a careful balancing of herbs, spices and flavours.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Prioritise your mental and physical well-being as professional cooking is not an easy job and it will stretch and challenge you.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A good sharp knife – a time saver, and much safer than a blunt one.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mother’s food – still the best in my eyes. Her family recipes were my inspiration to become a chef.

À la carte or tasting menu?
For me, not just what is on the menu comes into play, although I’d have to study both very carefully – the surroundings play a part too, as eating is a sensory experience. It would also depend how I am feeling in myself, what I was looking for in having the meal.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
The Greenhouse Dublin, it was my first Michelin star experience, so was simply unforgettable.

What’s your favourite fast-food joint?
To be honest, I don’t really like fast food as such, but if I was looking for something for “full fat indulgence” as I like to call it back home in Brazil, I’d go to a street market to have Brazil’s versions of deep fried street food, such as pastels or coxinhas. Here in the UK, I like pizza and burgers, not really from any fast food style restaurant, but more of an artisan version, made with good quality ingredients.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
I would say some of the dishes my mum made on a regular basis which were her own creations. They were amazing and I would choose them over many a restaurant dish.  If my grandmother was still alive, I’d choose some of her homemade cakes and would definitely open a cake shop with her.

MasterChef ​or Great British Menu​?
MasterChef​ in Brazil and Great British Menu​ here.

What’s the most overrated food?
Caviar – it’s not for me I am afraid. I also would be very disappointed if I went to a very nice restaurant that perhaps had been recommended to me, or had enjoyed amazing reviews only to find that they were not using seasonal ingredients. To me, all good cooking should be seasonal.

You are a restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
I would ban mobile phones at the table, and stop people gossiping in a nasty way, especially about other diners they see!

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
My son – to spend time together with him is one of my favourite things.

What’s your earliest food memory?
The cakes made by my grandmother, so delicious - I can still see, taste and smell them!

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram for me

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was in a bad car accident in the year 2000.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I love to go travelling, or back to my homeland of Brazil. Needless to say a sunny day on a beach makes me happy – it is in my DNA.

What’s your tipple of choice?
Depends on the moment really, sometimes I like a nice glass of wine, but I also like a beer, or it could be a glass of prosecco if I fancy some fizz. I always drink lots of water too.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?
Well it’s not very obscure I'm afraid, it’s more of a classic pairing of those tasty Brazilian snacks again – the coxinha and the pastels, with Caipirinha or a cold beer. I also enjoy when you go for a meal and they have matched the wines for you. It’s always worth trying as the chef and/or sommelier has gone to a great deal of trouble to do that.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
As I have said earlier, the signatures of my cooking are passion, flavour and colour, dishes that excite the taste buds and stay in the memory for a long time. Naming my own dishes, I would choose my Barriga de Cerdo Crujiente - crispy pork belly with banana puree, kale and pickled shallots with a pork reduction; along with the Pescado Del Dia – fillet of hake, served with a sweet potato puree, roasted tenderstem broccoli, garlic confit and a dill and lobster butter. Dessert wise, it has to be the El Chapto Charuto Cubano, a dark chocolate cigar filled with blackberry gel, chocolate and tea ganache, served with a smoked tea ash!  

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