From kitchens around the world, many a young, aspiring chef heads to Australia to explore new culinary horizons.
Chef, Aline de Freitas says her ‘complete in love for the art of fine dining’ saw her “venturing into the land of the kangaroos”.
Aline arrived in Australia almost five years ago from Brazil. “My aim was to ‘find myself’, she says, “plus, learning English and experiencing things I never ever experienced before. To live my life in a different way”.
Today, Aline is chef de Partie at Bar Milano – located on Sydney’s Maroubra Beach. Its fusion of Italian and Australian cultures, “brings the flavour of northern Italy’s Valtellina Valley to the menu” says Aline. Typical dishes include “Vitello Tonnato (sous vide veal served cold in a tuna and anchovy mayonnaise), Carpaccio, Cotoletta alla Milanese (breaded veal cutlets), Croquette del la Casa, homemade pastas, pizzas and Focaccia”.
Aline’s journey into professional cooking and its relationship with her own personal development, is filled with many examples of chef mentors, and moments of culinary insight along the way.
I never planned to be a professional chef
It all started with her “biggest inspiration” – her grandmother – when Aline was growing up in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s ‘comfort food’ city”.
Aline recalls, “The way she was able to bring people together around a table to celebrate life won me over. The kitchen has always been present in my life. And cooking was always an activity that challenged me to overcome limits – something I did with pleasure, and it made me feel good”.
But it’s not that unusual for the voice of the inner chef to make itself heard a little later in a young person’s career journey.
“The fact is, I never planned to be a professional chef” says Aline, “In Brazil, I was a professional handball player. I built a successful career precisely because I was able to work under pressure, and was dedicated, focused and organised”. Aline had also spent nine years at university, graduating and pos graduated in sport and science so she could work in training for high level athletes.
Inspired to constantly test my limits
Aline arrived in Australia, in 2017, and began working in restaurant kitchens. “The first time I worked in a professional kitchen was as a kitchen hand/dishwasher”.
Not knowing how to speak English meant the kitchen was the only environment where Aline says she, “could feel good enough to do a good job without having to speak too much! Just watching made me learn, and inspired me to constantly test my limits. Plus, showing how quickly I was able to learn and evolve is certainly what has been opening doors for me, right up until this very day”.
Aline also saw that professional cooking could change her life “in every way”. Fired by her new found passion for cooking, the following year Aline started at the Australian International College to study gastronomy.
“I started to dedicate myself to learn, and study to become a chef. From my first experiences in the kitchen, I knew that the way forward would be very hard. But I believed that even though it was relatively “late” it was possible to learn a new profession”.
Aline realised that the more she was able to communicate and express her feelings through the food she created, the more opportunity she had and the more she learned.
Head Chef in the kitchen for the first time
As a young chef Aline had not yet worked in famous restaurants but had also a great professional experience in a variety of cafes, restaurants and catering venues including, Luxe Cafe, BTB and Simmone Logue Café/Catering, a traditional Australian cafe in Double Bay, Sydney.
“It was one of the first opportunities that allowed me to develop my skills and also become ‘Head Chef’ in the kitchen for the first time. I worked with Simmone Logue, a talented chef and businesswoman who also owns ‘Simmone Logue Fine Foods”, and has clients such as Woolworths, Qantas, Virgin, and Thomas Dux. Simmone is committed to a philosophy of using fresh seasonal produce, and making beautiful, wholesome food that brings joy to many.
The ‘art of fine dining’ is always something that inspires me, which made me challenge myself to work in restaurants such as, The Cuban Place (Fusion of Mexican, Cuban and Peru cuisine) and Sneaky Possum (Australian modern cuisine)”.
After almost five years Aline was presented with two opportunities to challenge herself further when she took over as Head Chef at Don Pedros (Mexican restaurant in Paddington, Sydney) and (Asian fusion cuisine in Bondi Junction, Sydney).
Aline says they were only “short stints due to the onset of Covid lockdowns. “It was still enough time – and an important period for me to grow, learn new skills and develop a ‘signature’ approach to my cooking”.
Clean and simple creations always reflecting memories and love
Aline says she loves creating dishes that “people would never imagine would go together”. By using different ingredients she feels, through her cooking she can dissolve cultural differences. “I am constantly striving to create clean and simple dishes that are able to express my personality through colours and flavours”.
For Aline, being a chef is like “buying a plane ticket every day to a different place because we can get to know that place through the food – without actually ever having been there”.
“My cuisine represents unique tropical flavours, focused on the use of spices, fresh herbs and locally sourced products. I love to create fusion cultures and flavours. Every time I cook I mix spicy and fresh herbs, which I believe conveys my personality.
Audacity and creativity are what defines me at work, always highlighting the textures, colours and flavours of the dishes. Contemporary cuisine, deeply rooted in mixing symbolic ingredients of Brazilian cuisine with a twist. My creations are sometimes extravagant, sometimes direct, but most of the time, clean and simple but always reflecting memories and love.
By trying to put a Brazilian touch in wherever I do – in the cooking method, flavours, textures or colours – it refers to where I came from, my cultural origins”.
More opportunities for promoting and sharing her culinary approach
Aline’s passion to explore cooking with a cultural twist has led to more opportunities for promoting and sharing her culinary approach.
“I am running a project at CC’s Eco Family Day Care based in Kensington, Sydney”, says Aline, where she’s responsible for the development of menus and the kitchen. “The aim is to create a healthy and nutritional diet for children. My cooking class enables kids to have contact with food, and I’m also creating a small garden where the herbs and vegetables to be used in the kitchen are grown. Organic, partially vegetarian food and environmental awareness are pillars of this project”.
In 2021, Aline also had the opportunity to be involved with an Embassy of Brazil project called, ‘Brazilian Chefs in Australia’. “The aim was to promote Brazilian cuisine”, says Aline, “by creating a dish that could represent myself and my connection with Brazil through Australian gastronomy”.
Her gastronomy work also continues online – in the world of digital influence. “Through Instagram”, says Aline, “I share my routine working as an influencer chef”. Aline represents major kitchenware brands as a Tramontina, Baccarat and Carigu – and demonstrates their products.
“They’re able to help me in my chef’s routine in sharing knowledge about gastronomy, which is one of the ways to also showcase me in the kitchen wherever I am. Currently, Instagram is a virtual portfolio used for networking and professional connections, and also where I can share my evolution and trajectory – all my past and my future!”
Balance of professional and social life
Chef routines can also be demanding and stressful, of course – in the everyday world of the professional kitchen. Every chef will have their own way of managing the pressures of life on the pass. Aline says the only way to control the stress and pressure she experiences in the kitchen is through a balance of professional and social life.
“When I’m not working I try to do things that I enjoy and that relax me. Cooking and testing something new in the kitchen at home, plating it and enjoying it is a frequent thing on my days off. I try to eat well and go to the gym every day. Sport helps me relax, relieve stress and anxiety. Also sleeping well!
I also like to go out to dinner and discover new restaurants, explore foods and collect new gastronomic experiences. Cooking for friends with a good wine to follow is also another favourite downtime activity!
Sports and the athlete’s life is still part of my routine, too. I love playing handball, but the busy life of a chef does not allow me to participate as frequently in competitions.
Focus and precision while executing each dish
Aline’s busy life is of course, very much involves her role as Chef de Partie, and “running the larder/mains section”, at Bar Milano. Her opportunity to ‘challenge’ herself once more started when she began working on a totally new project directed by Patrick Agostinelli (owner and ex general manager at Aria) and Georgette Unger (owner and ex general manager at Nick’s Seafood, Darling harbour).
“At Bar Milano I had the opportunity to get know Joel Bickford (Consulting Chef), who is, in my opinion one of the most talented and competent chefs in Australia. I’m a huge admirer of his work and the magical way he cooks. The opportunity to work with more experienced chefs than myself continues to open up my understanding of not only of Italian cuisine but also of the precision and perfectionism that a professional kitchen like Bar Milano’s, demand. Work in a busy restaurant with consistent focus and precision while executing each dish is one of the biggest difficulties to overcome”.
Excellence is only achieved with repetition
While Aline’s career in cooking continues to flourish and grow, she offers young chefs some hard earned words of advice as they begin their journey.
“I have always believed that excellence is only achieved with repetition. It’s one of the lessons I take with me throughout my working life – learned from both my involvement in sport and in the kitchen There’s no difference. The more you practice the better you will be, and the more opportunities you will have.
Knowledge, talent and training are important. But without practice you will not achieve your professional goals and be the best you can be.
It is not about where you work or who you work with that will make you a good chef. It is how often you put everything you’ve learned into practice. My advice is… what you learn for the first time – do it again for as many more times as you can. If you love what you do, you will not give up on your goals!”
New challenges are always around the corner
Looking towards her own future, Aline believes her career is still in its infancy.
“At this stage, I feel very proud of how far I have come in such a short space of time. The kitchen has transformed my life in many ways. I believe that new challenges are always around the corner, but I know I will keep working hard to overcome obstacles, and whatever I set my mind upon to achieve”.