Great British Menu 2023 chefs: Caroline Martins, North West Heat

Alex South

Alex South


Caroline Martins, Chef and founder of the Sao Paulo project pop-up, is one of four chefs competing for the North West region on Great British Menu 2023.

Series 18 of the competition starts on January 31 2023 on BBC Two at 8pm and will air for eight weeks.

Caroline is going head to head with chefs László Nagy, Sam Grainger and Danielle Heron in a bid to represent the North West in the regional finals, and ultimately cook a dish at the final banquet.

This is Caroline's second time competing in Great British Menu, after she took part in the competition in 2022.


Caroline made the radical decision to change careers completely to become a chef. She took part in MasterChef Brazil, and while she didn't win, which would have afforded her an education at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, she headed to the London academy anyway. 

After this, she spent six months working at two Michelin-starred Trenkerstube at Hotel Castel in Tyrol in Italy, then moved to the UK, where she worked at two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table (then) at Bubbledogs and one Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle, before launching her own British-Brazilian fusion concept in Ancoats, Manchester. 

Caroline was also a finalist in the Craft Guild of Chefs' National Chef of the Year 2020 competition.

Her chief mission as a chef is to show that there is more to Brazilian food than meat, and uses tropical ingredients imported from her home country combined with local produce from Manchester and its surroundings. 

In 2022, Caroline was nominated as Chef of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards (the biggest award in Manchester) with her Sao Paulo Project was nominated as PopUp of the Year.

Full name

Caroline Martins


Mini Chef


I'm nearly 37, my birthday is actually next week, a few days after GBM airs!

Place of birth / residence

I was born in Sao Paulo in Brazil, although spent much of my upbringing around six hours drive away in a town called Barretos - it's a place famous around the globe for an annual festival called 'Festa do Peão', one of the biggest rodeo events in the world.

Relationship status / children

I'm married, and my husband Tim sometimes helps with our front of house.

For anyone who came to our 12-course tasting menu last year at my Sao Paulo residency at Blossom Street Social in Manchester, they will be well acquainted with Tim, and some of the dishes were inspired by how we met and our time together.


I'm 5 foot 3, so I'm rarely the tallest person in a kitchen (or any room at all).

Type of chef (restaurant, hotel, development chef, etc.)

I've worked across a few areas, including working in restaurants, hotels, teaching, and as a private chef.

They were all valuable experiences and each one shaped me into the chef I am today. But my current role, where I lead a kitchen and create my own menu, is definitely my favourite.

Favourite type of cuisine

While I absolutely love the food from my home country of Brazil (especially a Moqueca with rice, my father's recipe of course), it is also difficult to beat an Italian when wanting some delicious comfort food.

Path to becoming a chef

I had quite a journey before starting my culinary career. I spent a large part of my late teens and 20s studying plasma physics, in which I have a PhD.

So I am actually a 'Dr' but rarely use that prefix any more! After getting my PhD, I moved to Austin in Texas to work as a university researcher.

It was at that point I couldn't shake off my love of cooking and I found myself enjoying cooking for my friends more than anything else.

In fact, it was my friends who signed me up to MasterChef Brasil, where the prize is to go to the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. While I didn't win, I decided to take the plunge and pay for myself to go to Le Cordon Bleu in London. And that's where it all began.

Past and present place of work

After Le Cordon Bleu, I was lucky enough to work in some of the finest restaurants in the world, including positions at Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs (2 Michelin stars), Trenkerstube at Hotel Castel (2 Michelin stars), Galvin La Chapelle (1 Michelin star) and Pied à terre (1 Michelin star).

In 2020, Tim and I decided to move to Manchester just as the covid lockdowns occured, so I worked for a while as a private chef for Brazilian football players.

In 2021, I launched my Sao Paulo Project concept, featuring Brazilian-British fusion in both casual and fine dining settings.

Currently, I am continuing to build to the Sao Paulo brand at different pop-up and residencies around Manchester and elsewhere.

Personal and professional mentors / role models 

In my academic career, I always loved and was inspired by Stephen Hawking, and was so excited when I was able to visit Cambridge when I first moved to the UK.

In the food space, one of my chef mentors is different Thomas Kostner at Trenkerstube at Hotel Castel. His creativity and love for fresh, local ingredients has really inspired my approach with Sao Paulo Project.

I am also continuously inspired by Mary-Ellen McTague at Eat Well, a charity here in Manchester which supports people experiencing food poverty and inequality by providing them with chef-made meals to provide some respite in tough times.

We've worked together over the past 12 months, and her passion and selflessness are incredible to see.

Guilty pleasure dish

When Tim introduced me to chip butties and beans-on-toast, my world changed forever.

Best / worst thing about being a chef

Seeing the satisfaction of diners is difficult to beat.

The tasting menu, for example, is so personal and I really feel like I put my heart and soul into it.

So when I see diners respond ecstatically, it's made the journey worth it. The worst thing is the sometimes very late nights that can sometimes take a toll on family life, and there are definitely challenges in being a female in such a male-dominated industry.

Feelings stepping onto the GBM set

I've loved Great British Menu from almost my first day in the UK - it was one of the first British cookery shows I watched, and I binged so much of it during my time at Le Cordon Bleu.

So stepping onto that set, it was surreal at first, I couldn't quite believe it.

But the crew and everyone involved are so welcoming, I soon settled in and enjoyed it.

Plans for the future

I've got plans for a standalone venue (Sao Paulo Project) - showcasing both tasting menus and a more casual a-la-carte menu, including some of the best Brazilian drinks, wines and snacks with a unique twist.

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 17th February 2023

Great British Menu 2023 chefs: Caroline Martins, North West Heat