Natalia Pereira — the Brazilian-born chef-owner of Downtown’s Wood Spoon — will close her restaurant at the end of the month. It’s being billed as a temporary closure so Pereira can recover from an accident she was involved in last year, though there is currently no reopening date scheduled. The Michelin-recognized restaurant opened 16 years ago.
For the past year, Pereira has been struggling with a brain injury stemming from a collision with a scooter rider on a sidewalk. “I was [carrying] a set of plates from a car to bring them into my restaurant and was hit,” says Pereira. “I hit my head and now suffer from post-concussion syndrome.” She tells Eater that the day-to-day hustle of operating a restaurant has not provided enough time to properly heal, so stepping away now has become necessary. “I’m not my best and don’t have a lot of strength. I need to take time and reset.”
Pereira says that she has every intention to return to Wood Spoon’s Downtown LA space and will remain open until the end of the month, assuming that she’s feeling well enough to cook. For now, she’s hoping to take up to six months away from full-time restaurant work. While recovering, Pereira says she’ll conduct private dinners and potentially host Sunday meals with her signature pot pies and feijoada. Of course, these activities depend on her physical and mental well-being.
First opened in 2007, Wood Spoon developed a loyal following as Downtown transformed from a place many Angelenos avoided after dark into a dining and nightlife destination. Pereira’s Brazilian food has remained on diners’ radars ever since, with the celebrated chef even penning a cookbook and developing an art career in the intervening years. During her break, Pereira will show a photography exhibit in France.
Pereira also cites other reasons for the temporary closure, including the loss of regulars who moved out of the area and changes in Downtown overall. The area has been impacted by traffic and development but has not seen a full return to its pre-pandemic customer levels.
“Most of my customers have a hard time finding a place to park,” says Pereira of life in Downtown. “Sometimes it costs more for them to park than to come in for dinner. I got my windows smashed on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants like Terroni never reopened again. One time, I thought someone had a gun; I’ve never experienced that before. If I bring my groceries in, I’m going to get a [parking] ticket, and [delivery drivers] can’t find a place to park.”
The lack of parking and bike paths contributed to Pereira’s accident, as the scooter driver rode on the sidewalk. “I cannot blame anybody,” insists Pereira. “It is my duty to provide what I can and take responsibility in my community. And right now, I’m not available to do that.”
Pereira credits her longtime customers, neighbors, and landlords as her biggest supporters. She feels pride in her accomplishments, from arriving in the United States with two dollars to creating a community space where she can share her culture.
“I’m not in a position to continue this without taking a moment to rest,” says Pereira. “I’ve been in this space for 16 years. I cannot keep a stove on and the oven hot. I need to keep going with something beautiful, honorable, and new in meaningful ways to continue to show that this culture actually gave me a sense of home. A home. I hope [customers] will wait for me. Until the next meal, the table will be set.”
Before visiting Wood Spoon, check the restaurant’s Instagram to confirm Pereira’s availability.