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INSIDE TRACK: How Brazilian chefs are creating a fine cuisine

Once upon a time, anyone who compared Brazilian food with haute cuisine would have been laughed off the pitch.

The concept of cozinha sofisticada has long been absent from its culinary lexicon.

Most dishes, including the national one of feijoada, a stew which might contain beef and chorizo and beans, or pig's ears, tongue and trotters, are rooted in plain home cooking and made for sharing. This ethos of conviviality is reflected in the fact that street food, in a range of regional variations, is what Brazil is most famous for.

The legions of fans crowding Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Recife, Manaus, and other World Cup venues around the host country will sample such snacks as coxinha or chicken croquettes, acaraje. which are deep-fried black-eyed pea balls stuffed with fish or veg, and pao de queijo, a cheesy choux-pastry ball.

They are part of the popular culture of this huge country with a population of 200 million, one fifth of whom live below the UN poverty line.

Nevertheless, it came as something of a surprise to find that there are only two Michelin-starred Brazilian chefs in the world - and that neither of them lives in their country of birth. One of them is Henrique Leis, whose restaurant in Almancil, Portugal that takes his name has held a star since 2010.

His super-sophisticated menu - at up to £100 a head - includes prawns with a trio of langoustine, foie gras and truffle ravioli; foie gras of duck and goose in two preparations; supreme of turbot and risotto-gel with coconut milk; and pigeon from Bresse in a verveine crust.

The other is Marcello Tully of Kinloch Lodge on the island of Skye, who's had a star since 2010. He was born in Maceio in eastern Brazil, where his mother still lives, and the dishes he creates always contain produce such as bananas, passion fruit, fish and sugar cane rum as a nod to his culinary heritage. His £80 tasting menu includes a Mallaig seabass with lime and coconut, west coast scallops with citrus and ginger, and an apple crumble parfait with a cinnamon doughnut.

When he was growing up, there wasn't a word for chef - only for cook. It was the kids with little hope of an education who became cooks, and there was no such thing as a ­restaurant industry. So when he told his Rio-born father he wanted to become a chef, he wasn't best pleased. Tully trained with Albert Roux in Britain, 6,000 miles away from his home country.

In the last 10 years, though, the food scene there has really scored with a number of excellent restaurants bubbling up from under the radar.

Helena Rizzo of Mani in Sao Paulo has been voted the world's best female chef for 2014. Born in Porto Alegre, she worked at El Celler De Can Roca in Gerona, one of the world's best restaurants, before returning to her roots to create authentic cuisine.

It was recently announced that Brazil is to be the first Latin American country to have a Michelin Guide, to be published in March next year. Unsurprisingly, it will be dedicated to the wealthy cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Let's hope Brazil doesn't serve up an own goal before then.

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