Lady Jaguar: Chef Janaina Torres Named Best Female Chef

Chef Janaína Torres, the winner of Best Female Chef in the World for 2024, leads the kitchen at Sao Paulo’s A Casa do Porco, which literally translates to ‘House of Pig’; the restaurant is committed to the idea of whole animal use, leaving no part of the free-range animal unused. Their ‘Six Versions of Pork’ perfectly depicts this concept as it includes bacon, pancetta, suckling pig and tongue, and the smooth tartare featuring aged bone marrow and mushrooms.

Torres has been named the World's Best Female Chef 2024. In previous years, this award was given to the Mexican Elena Reygadas, the Colombian Leonor Espinosa, the Peruvian Pía León and the US-born Mexican Daniela Soto-Innes. 

"I am delighted to be named The World's Best Female Chef 2024 and to join the incredible list of those who have been recognized before me. I hope to inspire the next generation of female chefs and build a legacy for Brazilian gastronomy together with my community. For me, this award is an important platform to raise awareness of education through and for nutrition, which I believe is essential for a fairer future in my country and around the world," says Torres.

The chef who’s often talked about her Brazillian heritage has grown up having long, shared meals with her family. “I was born in tenement housing, where everything is shared,” Torres said once. “Brazilian food is lots of people around the table. At my grandparents’ house, we would go from midday until evening, eating roasted meat with all the trimmings. I’ll always have food and music in my home,” noted the chef. 

This may also explain why A Casa do Porco offers a selection that can be afforded by most with best-value tasting menus at around US$60 per person. Guests can enjoy traditional artisanal sausages, cassava croquettes, and slow-roasted delicacies cooked from six to nine hours. 

In 2008, Torres opened her first restaurant, O Bar da Dona Onça, which focused on home-style pressure cooking. The casual neighbourhood spot in the Copan building was so successful that it helped fund the launch of A Casa do Porco a few years later. Dona Onca, which translates to Lady Jaguar is a fond nickname the community has bestowed on Torres; the chef is known to channel the mighty cat in the kitchen, with a knack for strategic cooking. “I’m precise,” the chef told World’s 50. “I strive for accuracy and avoid mistakes ”

Co-founded with her chef ex-husband Jefferson Rueda, who remains her business partner, Torres has been running A Casa do Porc for almost a decade. In 2023, she launched the latest menu, Somos de Carne e Osso (We are Flesh and Bone), which garnered widespread acclaim. One of the most ambitious fishes on its al carte menu is the San Zé; inspired by the famous Porco a Paraguaia, a São Jose do Rio Pardo classic, San Zé is baked in their kitchen daily from 6 to 8 hours, served with a side of rice. 

Torres has also worked with São Paulo’s government to train school cooks and improve the diet of 1.8 million children by replacing processed ingredients with fresh, healthy options. “I love so many cultures – I fell in love with Japan recently – but Brazil has it all: samba, feijoada (a Brazilian stew), moqueca (fish stew), farofa (toasted cassava flour), churrasco (barbecue), açaí (a fruit), tucupí (a fermented sauce made from cassava), jaboticaba (a fruit), botecos (bars). Sitting in a boteco with a beer and some fish is a wonderful thing,” Torres said.