Rita Costa is 18 years old and made it to the final of “MasterChef Portugal”. She is a star on TikTok

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The lady from Oeiras is a success on social networks, where she shares recipes that are easy to replicate. In 2021, she won the “Cascais Junior Chef”.

It is already this Saturday, February 18, that RTP broadcasts the final of another edition of “MasterChef Portugal”, program that attracts, especially, those who dream of a future in the kitchen. Sahima Hajat (32), Ana Sanchez (32), Lionel Martins (29) and Rita Costa (18) are the great finalists of this season, which started on November 22 with 15 contestants and Pedro Pena Bastos, Noélia Jerónimo and Ricardo Costa as judges.

Before the winner was revealed, NiT spoke with Rita, the youngest among the participants, who is already a phenomenon on social networks, especially on TikTok, where she has gained more than 10,000 followers by sharing “simple recipes that anyone can make at home.”

As usual in such cases, the interest in the area goes back to childhood. “The taste for cooking came naturally. My parents always cooked a lot – very well, by the way – so it just happened. I used to go and see what they were doing and how they did it,” says the young woman from Oeiras, a town in which her family owns two The Stones restaurants. These have fondues on a stone (a dish of Swiss origin) as their main dish, but they also serve Portuguese food.

“The truth is, I didn’t spend much time there. And when I did go, it wasn’t even cooking that I was helping. I remember doing the dishes and stuff to earn some money, but nothing much beyond that,” he confesses.

“The first time I cooked seriously I must have been about 10 or 11 years old. My mother broke her arm and I needed help preparing lunch and dinner. I remember she was giving me instructions to guide me. They were simple things, like hamburgers, pasta or rice, but that is when the passion really started to emerge. Then, I started following her more and trying on my own the recipes I found on the Internet,” she shares.

If it is true that sweets and cakes were what fascinated her most at first, it is also true that she always sought to know a little bit about everything. “I never focused on anything concrete. I researched a little bit of everything and kept trying, sometimes following the instructions more faithfully, sometimes giving a more personal touch. I think it’s important, and even inevitable, to give that touch of our own to everything we do. This is something I’m striving for more and more, especially since joining ‘MasterChef’.

Before the RTP program, Rita participated, in 2021, in “Cascais Junior Chef”, which she won. “I heard about the contest on Instagram and decided to participate. I’m quite competitive and I thought it was an interesting challenge, as well as a good opportunity to see what I could do under pressure. I didn’t regret it. Not least because that’s when I decided what course I wanted to follow. I was in 12th grade and had no idea what to study when I finished. I don’t even know where I would be today if I hadn’t applied,” he reveals.

It can be said, therefore, that the competition was a watershed. “During that competition, when I came into contact with professional chefs and students from the Estoril Hotel and Tourism School, I really discovered what interested me and what I wanted for the future.” She is now in her second year of Food Production in Catering.

To win, the lady from Ouija overcame three stages: “In the first two, we were told what we had to do. In the last one, we were free to decide what to present. I ended up being inspired by a Brazilian moqueca, without any great inventions. In general, I followed the typical recipe,” he explains.

The same cannot be said for the dish she presented at the casting for “MasterChef”. “I prepared a duck magret with orange and almond risotto that I’m very proud of, because it was something I developed from scratch. I haven’t seen it anywhere else.” The recipe is available online.

Enrolling in the nationally important program, like the whole journey so far, also ended up happening naturally. “It’s always an opportunity to get in touch with professionals I admire and learn more. Plus, it seemed like the perfect time to participate. If it wasn’t already, it probably would never happen,” he says with the assurance that only 18 years old allows.

On the eve of the final, he makes “a positive balance. It’s very challenging, especially dealing with the pressure to always do more and better, which makes the process a little difficult, but it was worth it.

I keep with me, above all, the possibility of meeting with renowned chefs “always willing to help. Chef Pedro’s story, for example, inspires me a lot. He took the same course as me, and besides, he’s so young and already has a Michelin star. It ends up proving that it’s possible”, he comments. Bastos, 31 years old, achieved the distinction with Cura, at the Ritz Lisbon.

Of the various challenges she faced, Rita recalls, with special fondness, the one where she had to imitate the dish of Louise Bourrat, the winner of the French “Top Chef” who has a restaurant in Lisbon, Boubou’s, in Príncipe Real. “I needed to replicate what she had done without following the recipe. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, because it involved some difficult techniques, but with her indications it was possible. I am very proud of this achievement.

After the program, the plans are to continue a business that he started with João Frazão, another participant in the edition. “The main thing is to finish the course, of course, but we’ve started giving private dinners at the homes of those who hire us. It’s a project that started in the last few weeks and, for now, it works more for friends, to see how it goes. It is a way to gain some money and experience. Currently, people come to us through Instagram and we evaluate case by case how everything goes, but it’s something we want to develop. I’d also like to intern in some restaurants.”

In between, she shares her recipes on social media. “I started doing it on Instagram during the pandemic. Nowadays I make videos for TikTok with simple recipes that anyone can make at home. That’s where I have the biggest audience, because in addition to reaching the ‘MasterChef’ fans, I reach people who like my recipes and don’t know my background”, she says.

At the moment, she publishes between two and three videos a week, but it is a job she intends to continue. “I decided to start publishing the videos because, besides being a platform that is trending, it is a new way to make my work known and to teach how to make new recipes, something that attracts me a lot. The recipes that the public likes the most are those that are easy to replicate, like cookies or pasta,” she concludes. So far, pasta with lemon sauce, palmiers, and giant cookies have been the most popular suggestions. Together they add up to more than half a million views.

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