Kiwi celebrity chef Annabel Langbein reveals how she got her big break - making croissants in the backwaters of Brazil
When I was in my early 20s I travelled right up the coast of Brazil, through the Amazon and then down through Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. I had been on the road for about ten months when I got terrible food poisoning from ceviche.The New Zealand embassy in Lima rescued me. I was in bed for two weeks.
At that point I decided I needed to put my roots down and recover. I remembered travelling through this really beautiful village called Buzios, about an hour and a half north of Rio, and thought, 'Why don’t I go back there?'
I ended up renting a room with a couple. Having been on the road for so long all I wanted to do was cook. That’s the thing I’ve always found centres me. The couple I was living with thought I was barmy. One day they asked if I could make croissants. When you’re young you say yes to everything, so I said yes.
The first thing I did was ring my mother and ask, ‘How do you make croissants?’ I had no butter so I had to render all my own lard.
I started making delicious crisp little croissants to have with afternoon tea. Before long people started knocking on the door asking to buy them. I got a job in a little pousada hotel where I got free rent and use of the kitchen in exchange for managing the hotel from 1pm to 6pm every day. I would go to bed by 7pm, then get up at 11pm to party and bake croissants. I’d deliver them then and go lie on the beach, then between 1pm and 5pm all my friends would come to the bar and we’d eat and play backgammon.
I didn't realise it at the time, but it was the first step on my career in cooking!