We’ve been invited for lunch at Bazzar in the heart of Ipanema. The restaurant’s owner Cristiana Beltrão wanted to introduce us to her brand by making us experience it firsthand. “I thought Bazzar was a product line,” Anouk says as we arrive at the restaurant, “Bazzar jam is delicious, I’ve tasted it before, it’s made with local products. Is this part of the same brand?”
“I’m sure Christiana can tell us more about it,” I say as the maitre d’ shows us our table and offers us a homemade aperitif, based on açai. “One thing I know is that Bazzar is a true Carioca brand.” This is also reflected in the restaurant’s interior, which has an atmosphere of informal, natural elegance about it, with wooden floors, plants and daylight filtering in.
“I think it’s what you call ‘laidback sophistication’,” says Anouk as she takes a sip of her aperitif.
“That’s a great compliment!” a voice behind me says, and as I turn around, I see Cristiana standing there with a big smile. “Welcome to Bazzar, it’s so nice to meet you both!”
As we order starters of marinated ‘bacalhau’, we talk about business, Cristiana’s passion for food and our shared love of her hometown Rio.
Cristiana tells us her father was the owner of a large investment company, and her mother is an anthropologist. “They were both very strong role models for me: I inherited my father’s passion for business and my mother’s passion for culture. And I bring those two passions together in Bazzar.”
“Wouldn’t it have been more logical – not to mention easier – to take over the family business, instead of starting from scratch on your own?” Anouk asks.
“Of course,” says Cristiana with a smile. “And that’s what everyone expected. But that would have meant moving to Sao Paulo. And that was unthinkable for me.” There is a fire in her eyes now. “There was no way I was going to leave Rio,” Cristiana says emphatically. “People complained about Rio, but I never understood why. I love Rio and that’s also what I wanted to create a real Carioca brand in the food business.”
“Why food?” I ask. “There’s plenty of other things out there…”
“I always had a passion for gastronomy and I felt that there was a lot of space for innovation,” she says. “Until very recently, Brazilians didn’t link health to healthy eating there was very little consciousness about food.”
Our main course of grilled shrimps Bazzar style has just been served and Cristiana explains that the ingredients are all locally sourced and dishes are prepared with olive oil. “You won’t believe it, but I was the first to introduce olive oil – everyone used butter until the 1990s. We started using it in 80 percent of our dishes, but for the longest time customers kept choosing the dishes prepared with butter. It took ages to change this…”
“Continue your story though,” says Anouk eagerly, “I want to hear about how you created the Bazzar concept!”
Cristiana laughs. “Right, where as I? So I started studying restaurant business and I was going to restaurants every day to see what was out there. I was ready to really give it my all… and then…” she puts down her fork and takes a sip of water. “Then things got hard actually.” She looks off into the distance for a moment as if remembering this period. “My father suddenly fell ill and died, I was pregnant, I was about to be a mother… everything seemed to push me in the direction of choosing the ‘safe’ path, of taking over dad’s business, having security, having time for my child. Nothing was working out the way I expected…” she says with a wistful smile.
“And yet here we are!” says Anouk. So what happened?”
“What happened is that I decided to ignore the signs,” says Cristiana with a renewed tone of determination in her voice. “I decided to stick to my plan of having my own restaurant in Rio. And so I did.”
“Great!” says Anouk enthusiastically. “Talk about being a visionary and a fighter! Wow!”
Cristiana smiles. “It wasn’t always easy but it was worth it.”
“And so what’s next? I ask.
Well, after opening several restaurants in Rio, I wanted to expand, but I was afraid of losing the Carioca soul if I opened branches in other cities. So instead I created the Bazzar product line, which is now sold at 425 points of sale in Brazil. And the next step will be to expand into foreign markets. The company is ready and so am I!”
© 2013 CoolBrands
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