From Serido de Cerro Corá, entrepreneur Clija Chait is gaining more and more space in the food market in Los Angeles, United States. There, she and her husband Bill Chait run more than 20 haute cuisine ventures, with award-winning kitchens led by renowned chefs. Her life story could easily be at the center of a Hollywood production. The road to reach this level has been arduous. Without forgetting her origins, Clija’s latest activity is located in São José do Campestre, where the Precioso Supermercado opened this Friday (20).
Raised on a farm four hours from Cerro Corá, Clija comments that the teachings passed on by her grandparents – whom she calls father and mother – were the basis of her education, something essential to her gastronomic training. “I grew up in the bush, picking fruit from the tree, cooking on a wood fire and fishing by hand. We didn’t have refrigerators, my mother used fishing lines to hang the fish in the sun and dry them so they wouldn’t get damaged. All these gastronomic techniques have been something I have learned and brought into my life ”.
At the age of 15 she came to Natal against the wishes of her parents, where she started working as a nanny and also had an experience at the Guararapes company. You started in the gastronomic field as a waitress and then worked in the administrative area in the Italian restaurants of the capital. “I have always had a strong gastronomy and this entrepreneurial side of mine. My mother was selling dulce de leche and I took the change, put it in glasses and went out into the street to sell it. I love to cook, but the administrative area is the most complete part of me “.
At the age of 24 she moved to Sao Paulo where she met her husband, the renowned American restaurant Bill Chait. “Before the move, I felt that a lot of bad things were happening. I ended up getting into the field of aesthetics because I really did what I wanted to do. I didn’t have an incredible financial condition, I was living right down there and this new opportunity presented itself. I met my husband at a business meeting because I also worked in restaurants there, ”she says.
The relationship continued at a distance until Clija moved permanently to Los Angeles in 2016. During those six years she attended an accounting course at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) and began working in the administration of the couple’s companies.
He is currently 31 years old, since leaving his parents’ home he has started to govern himself and to value this independence. Today, the biggest problem is the lack of loved ones.
During the pandemic, this feeling was exacerbated. In addition, the out-of-home food sector was one of the hardest hit over the period. “It was very difficult, it was painful to see our restaurants closed, built with so much sweat, love and creativity. And then, we have two choices: repent or rush for things to happen. We realized what the government was going to do and we received a financial stimulus. The pandemic has truly wiped out some of our restaurants while helping others. We didn’t close any units, but we suffered, ”she says.
In a competitive market like that of Los Angeles, the line designed by entrepreneurs to guarantee the quality of service and product is a differential. When asked about the possibility of opening a restaurant in the Potiguar lands, Clija discards the option. “The lack of our presence in the establishment creates complexity because we believe in excellent service and excellent food delivery and presentation,” she comments. Among her duties, the entrepreneur also runs a celebrity events company.
From Alex Atala to Dona Fátima’s free-range chicken
Currently, Clija works in the management of Tesse, Mian Taste, Caboco and Fanny’s restaurants. The kitchens range from Mediterranean to Chinese cuisine, passing through Brazilian cuisine and arriving at the Oscar Museum in Los Angeles. In addition, they are partners of Boutellier Wines and Tartine Bakery, an award-winning bakery chain with fourteen locations in the United States and South Korea.
For her, gastronomy is not just food, but experience. This perspective of the world comes from her childhood when she was still living with her grandparents – Dona Ana Maria and Seu João Duarte – who were farmers and worked in the fields. “My biggest inspiration for the business was my father. He always encouraged me a lot, he had his own fields and let me plant a small plantation. Everything she did for him, she did for me, and my mother taught me the gastronomic part “.
Clija remembers the moments of her childhood when she had little, but felt she had a lot. “Being northeastern, our people, is something we have to appreciate. In the countryside, people can only have one plate of food, but even so they share it with those who need it. You don’t see it in the United States. That’s why I eat the food from Alex Atala’s kitchen and also Dona Fátima’s free-range chicken at Totóia’s Restaurant ”.
Sometimes, a movie plays in your head when you remember everything that happened and where you managed to get. Gratitude is the word that moves her. Many years ago she could barely pay the rent, she basically ate nothing but noodles and went through moments of revolt over what was wrong with her life. “I got down on my knees and cried, asking God why, but I didn’t give up. I would cry and the next day I would get up and come back, ”she says. As a child, around the age of six or seven, she highlights a specific episode, in which she sees a plane go by and she hears her mother say that one day she would fly higher.
“I remember these jokes, I sadly remember the difficulties we went through. I remember the time when my mother waited for the rain to wash clothes on her rocks. Waking up and asking what was for breakfast and she replying: “My daughter, she is not here today, go hunting, go look for guava”. Today I can help my parents and everything I do is for them. I look at my past and I see that God prepared me in a genuine way, from my childhood where I ate dry piaba with flour, until I had the purchasing power to go to starred restaurants “.
When not busy with business, among her other interests, she enjoys traveling, meeting new people and has a special appreciation for art and fashion. However, she jokes that she always tries to bring these issues out and connect them to gastronomy. For everything she’s been through and for everyone she’s lived with, Clya’s feet don’t lift off the ground. “My message is don’t give up. Every day I wake up in the morning and if I have a goal, I speak it out loud without anyone listening to me because I want me to know. I say “I’m going to reach, I want to reach” and I don’t stop until I reach it, ”she concludes.
The new adventure will be in the countryside of the state
Passing through Brazil, this Friday (20) he opened his new business: the first Precioso Supermercados unit in São José do Campestre. The concept of the place is that of a “boutique” environment in just over 300 m², with plans for expansion in other parts of the state. The business was born from a partnership between Clija and her longtime friend, the director Priscilla Costa.
The purpose of the business is to provide interior people with a different concept of what shopping means. For this, Precioso has a wide variety of products in groceries, ortifruti, cleaning and bakery, as well as having fair prices and home delivery. The first unit will have the work of local professionals and neighboring cities, in search of excellence in service.
According to her, the idealization of the project enhances and celebrates the culture and history of the north-eastern people and the Sertanejo people. “Priscilla has been working with me for a long time and we came up with the idea of doing something together. My wish was to stay in the food business and we decided on a supermarket. We prefer to start in São José do Campestre because that’s where she lives. We have invested in something beautiful but accessible to the public because it was made especially for them. My intention is to return to repay what people here have done for me in such difficult times in life ”, says the entrepreneur.