Camila Alves may have grown up in Brazil, but the 34-year-old model didn’t know how to make her favorite dishes like feijoada (rice and beans cooked with sausage and other meats) or dulce de leche until she was living in the US.
“My mom tried to teach me to cook, but she has a very tough personality — she’d just take over,” Alves tells The Post ahead of Friday’s opening of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she’ll act as “special correspondent” for “Today” on NBC and for the E! network. “I learned how to make my first fish [dish] in New York City watching the ‘Rachael Ray Show.’”
Times have changed. These days the Brazilian beauty has her own lifestyle website, Women of Today; an organic frozen baby-food company called Yummy Spoonfuls; and an arsenal of recipes she whips up for friends and family.
“There’s always a pot of beans on the stove,” she says about keeping her three children — and hubby Matthew McConaughey — well-fed. “[Matthew] loves my mother’s feijoada. That’s one of his favorites.”
Food was an important part of Alves’ upbringing in a small town north of Rio. “My mom has 13 brothers and sisters, my dad has 14,” she says. “There was a lot of entertaining and a lot of cooking.” She remembers going to family reunions and learning to dance while standing on her father’s feet, then listening to her grandparents’ stories as the kids stuffed their faces with pão de queijo, a baked cheese roll made with yucca flour.
“I grew up eating pão de queijo every day,” says Alves, now an ambassador for Brazilian food company Forno de Minas. “When I land at the airport in Rio, the first thing I do is get a pão de queijo. It is my comfort food.”
Though Alves can now find her favorite food stateside, she’s looking forward to returning to Rio, where she’s especially excited about the gymnastics and swimming competitions. Which team will she be rooting for? “Our house is half-Brazilian, half-American,” she says, coyly. “I can’t tell you!”