Cozinha Gourmet, Preserves a Heritage, Brazilian Cuisine (Westwood, MA)

Cozinha Gourmet was established by Rita Assunção, a native of Minas Gerais, Brazil, who inherited her culinary legacy from her grandmother. Upon relocating to the United States, Rita asked a question: how could she express her gratitude to the mothers who came before her? For Rita, it was with a savory snack served piping hot. The “pão de queijo” (pronounced pow-ge-KAY-ju), is a traditional Brazilian delicacy with origins in the 18th-century Brazilian Gold Rush, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. Known as “cheese bread”, this golden treat boasts a crunchy exterior and a fluffy, cheese center.

Minas Gerais, a sprawling southeastern Brazilian state, is steeped in mineral wealth. Rita reminisces about her hometown, a place where the landscape is so rugged that streets are a rarity. The people fiercely preserve the land, the mineral spring water, and a climate– cold mornings, hot dry days, and sporadic rain. This climate influences the distinct flavors of the cheese. The flour is from yucca and the aroma it exudes is reminiscent of sweet cakes mingled with cheese. She cherishes memories of gatherings with cousins and neighbors, where her grandmother, a mother of eleven children, upheld a tradition: “If you come to my house, you eat something.”

After she moved to Boston, she tried a few pão de queijo, but they lacked the taste from home. Throughout the journey LEAF has been by her side providing help with financials and then a loan to purchase equipment. Determined to capture that authentic flavor, Rita brought specialized machinery used in Brazil to craft these treats, along with the key ingredient—yucca flour, essential for that traditional flavor profile.

Rita’s dedication to authenticity extends to the tools she uses, like the “dough cutter” sourced from Brazil, an essential element in shaping these delicate treats. She’s also implemented a blast chiller to aid in freezing the dough. For Rita, Cozinha Gourmet is a “thank you” to her ancestors for their love and their knowledge. At Cozinha Gourmet, the warmth and flavors of Brazilian culinary tradition find a place in every home.