Chefs who are taking Portuguese Food to the next level in Lisbon
Generally speaking, Portuguese people tend to have a classical mindset when it comes to food. Following the old saying “if something is not broken, why fix it?” we have for years clinged to recipes that have been passed from generation to generation in our families. We have embraced traditional flavors and cooking techniques almost as sacred as magical formulas that shouldn’t be altered.
In the last decade, though, the landscape of Portuguese cuisine has been changing. This is thanks to younger chefs who dare to defy tradition, and also diners who not only are ready to taste something different, but who crave precisely that! This Portuguese food revolution has chef José Avillez as its frontman. The two-Michelin-starred chef has gained fame by combining Portugal’s rich culinary heritage with a modern approach.
Following the path that chef Avillez and other chefs from his generation have paved in the last ten years or so, we find several other younger chefs who are reinventing Portuguese food. They are honoring our native ingredients and paying tribute to the roots of Portuguese food culture, while taking things to the next level with a contemporary approach that does not turn a blind eye to international influences.
Gastronomic and cultural explorers will come across new-age Portuguese restaurants with young chefs presenting contemporary Portuguese food a little all over the country. Today, we highlight ten of the Lisbon based young chefs who are taking Portuguese food to the next level, right at the capital:
1. CHEF PEDRO PENA BASTOS
As chef Pedro Pena Bastos puts it “I love cooking with a context”. Currently leading the kitchen of Ceia, a 14 seat dining experience in the heart of old Lisbon, chef Pena Bastos prepares a tasting menu that keeps changing according to what is in season. At Ceia, the chef focuses on elevating Portuguese ingredients, sourced from local producers. As dishes are served in a communal table, the origin of the products is explained.
Chef Pena Bastos does incorporate non traditional Portuguese elements in his cooking, yet the ingredients themselves are sourced in Portugal as much as possible. This results in a local cuisine that, thanks to the diversity of approaches behind the stove, and what Chef himself calls “the art of transformation”, tastes Portuguese but feels like the wider world.
2. CHEF MIGUEL PERES
Restauranteur and Chef Miguel Peres is the face behind Pigmeu, a Campo de Ourique based restaurant that specializes in serving pork dishes, and that we get to visit during our Lisbon Market, Food and Cultural Walk. Chef’s approach is all about sustainability.
Not only at Pigmeu he focuses on serving pork, literally from head to tail, he has also been expanding the original meat-focused menu with options that blend meat and vegetables. At the moment, Pigmeu’s offerings consist in 1/3 meat, 1/3 entrails and 1/3 vegetables.
Chef Miguel Peres works with local organic farms, from whom he sources free range pigs, as well as bio seasonal vegetables, including greens that would normally go to waste but that he repurposes for recipes like stocks, following a zero waste approach. Chef Miguel Peres manages to combine two concepts that do not always go hand in hand: typical Portuguese comfort food, with a keen eye on sustainable farming, zero waste and an overall respect for nature.
3. CHEF SUSANA FELICIDADE
In a culinary landscape clearly dominated my male chefs, Susana Felicidade stands out as the chef making patrons happy. Quite literally! This chef’s name translates as happiness and one of her restaurants is called Cozinha da Felicidade, that is, Happiness Kitchen.
Chef Felicidade grew up in the world of cooking, as her family-owned restaurants in the southern region of Algarve, where she comes from. Today, across her several businesses, chef Susana Felicidade develops creative dishes with different approaches depending on the eatery. Overall, the chef’s take focuses on updating old time Portuguese recipes with a personal twist. The preparations are actually simple but, as we all know, simplicity is often a complex thing to do well!
4. CHEF ANTÓNIO GALAPITO
After gathering experience besides Michelin-star chef Nuno Mendes in London, chef António Galapito opened his own restaurant in Lisbon. At Prado, Galapito follows the farm-to-table concept as closely as it gets, being the one responsible for a lot of the partnerships that the restaurant has established with producers, fishermen, and farmers.
Here, Galapito works exclusively with Portuguese ingredients and, as such, the changing menu reflects seasons and availability. The result is a hyper local fresh cuisine. chef Galapito serves mostly small dishes, that are simple, yet sophisticated. It’s all about elevating the ingredients and letting the elementary combination of flavors and textures speak for themselves.
5. CHEF HUGO BRITO
Set in an old butcher shop in one of the most typical of Lisbon’s neighborhoods, Alfama, Boi-Cavalo is chef Hugo Brito’s led restaurant. The former video artist started cooking inspired by the desire to make a change and have new avenues to express emotions. At 28 years of age he signed up for a cooking school in Amsterdam. Upon his return to Portugal, worked with carismatic chef Ljubomir Stanisic and, after a couple of other projects, finally opened the doors to Boi-Cavalo.
At Boi-Cavalo, his whole idea is to revamp and elevate ingredients that are normally not seen as noble. His cuisine not only is Portuguese, it is specifically Lisbon based, bringing back some of the capital’s classics. Those lucky enough to experience chef Hugo Brito’s tasting menu can expect preparations such as barley soup with fresh fish, or hare confit with chard risotto.
Chef Hugo Brito goes back in time to retrieve some of Lisbon’s most iconic dishes, while looking forward with his unique rock’n’roll style. An example of that? The skull shaped flavored butter you are served at the beginning of the meal!
6. CHEF ANDRÉ FERNANDES
Attla is one of the most recent hits in Lisbon’s dining scene. chef André Fernandes and his girlfriend Rita Chantre have traveled extensively around Asia. Upon their return to Portugal, they decided to open Attla, where chef André Fernandes presents an ode to Portuguese cuisine, while letting the influences from his travels around the world make an appearance on the plate too.
The chef has worked in different corners of the globe, from Europe to Asia, the Caribbean and South America. All of this becomes evident to the taste buds of those fortunate enough to sit at Attla to enjoy a meal.
Away from Lisbon’s tourist epicentre, in the neighborhood of Alcântara, chef André Fernandes introduces curious eaters to imaginative dishes, full of beautiful contrasts and surprises.
7. CHEF VITOR ADÃO
Chef Vítor Adão is one of the hottest chefs in Lisbon right now. Quite literally! Plano, in the historical neighborhood of Graça, is the chef’s first solo project. Along all summer at this restaurant, you were welcomed by the chef himself and invited to make yourself comfortable at a candlelit 18 seater common table outdoors.
Being al fresco means that guests got to be near the ofyr grill, an essential element to chef Vítor Adão’s cuisine. Fire cooking relates to the chef’s roots, in the North of Portugal. Even though chef Vitor Adão is definitely connected to his origins in the province of Trás-os-Montes, his cooking is Portuguese as much as it embraces influences from the rest of the world.
Eating at Plano you can expect flavors from Portugal and Far Asia cohesively on the same plate. Beyond the actual gastronomic experience, chef Vítor Adão is very concerned with running a low waste kitchen, in which he is now proud to produce little more than 1 kilo of organic waste per day. With this sustainable mindset, chef Vítor Adão is now about to launch Plano in a new indoor location, which the local community of gourmands is looking forward to finding out more about!
8. CHEF JOÃO SÁ
After becoming a father and being away from the frenetic world of restaurants for a few years, chef João Sá decided to come back with his energies fully recharged, to lead the kitchen of Sála. The chef’s unpretentious cooking is refined and delicate, yet uncomplicated. In his own words “I want to serve good food, which may look simple at first, but that certainly has work that has gone into it”.
He only cooks with ingredients of Portuguese origin, presenting dishes that are not what you’d straightforwardly expect when you have Portuguese cuisine in mind. Some of the most celebrated dishes at Sála include potato croissant with assorted mushrooms and black truffle, or the Tarte Bulhão Pato, a tart inspired by the ultra popular Portuguese dish of saucy clams.
After working with renowned chefs such as chef Ljubomir Stanisic (100 Maneiras, Lisbon) and Chef Nuno Mendes (Viajante, London), chef João Sá has gathered plenty of experience and inspiration to serve beautiful dishes that keep changing seasonally, according to the rhythm of nature. Many go as far as to say that “Chef João Sá’s cuisine tastes like an upcoming Michelin star”, but only time will tell.
9. CHEF HENRIQUE CACHOLA
“Expect the unexpected” and “there is no room for regrets”. These are some of the taglines used at Cave 23, the contemporary Portuguese restaurant fronted by chef Henrique Cachola. This young chef’s culinary creations are meant to inspire emotions and take you out of your comfort zone. He achieves this with dishes that are somewhere between the classics of Portuguese gastronomic tradition and a world of daring flavors.
At this restaurant, chef Henrique Cachola prides himself on using the primmest of national ingredients and goes as far as saying that the ingredients themselves are the star of the show. Chef Henrique Cachola, who started cooking at 12 years of age, has just turned 23 and has been developing a consistently attractive work.
He is certainly one of the young Portuguese chefs to keep an eye on! His kitchen smells like great things are going to come.
10. CHEF LEOPOLDO CALHAU
Those looking forward to taste a sophisticated interpretation of Alentejo cuisine right in the Portuguese capital, can trust chef Leopoldo Calhau to deliver. At his recently opened Taberna do Calhau, chef Leopoldo Calhau serves petiscos, that is, small servings of Portuguese dishes, ideal for sharing. Calhau focuses on the Alentejo region as a main source of inspiration, but that doesn’t mean other regions of Portugal don’t make an appearance on the table.
Most of the dishes at Taberna do Calhau are saucy, and thus perfect to soak up with the popular bread from Alentejo region. Through his creations, chef Leopoldo Calhau means to highlight specific Portuguese products and small producers. Expect Portuguese classics that are presented in a more elegant than usual way, yet are meant to be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere, while sipping a carefully selected range of natural Portuguese wines.
Chef Leopoldo Calhau is one of the chefs responsible for turning the neighborhood of Mouraria, where our Lisbon Roots, Food & Cultural Walk takes place, into one of the most gastronomically relevant areas of Lisbon today.
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