When you read about the inspiration of many renowned chefs, they often quote their grandmother’s cooking as a source of inspiration. When you taste someone’s food and you say something along the lines “it tastes just like my mom’s!”, that would generally be a huge compliment. For centuries, women have been in charge of feeding their families. They are mostly responsible for the survival of traditional recipes passed from generation to generation. Yet, when it comes to the world of professional cooking and celebrity chefs, here in Portugal, just like in most corners of the world, you’d be hardly pressed to find examples of women who’ve been given the recognition many of their male counterparts seem to more easily receive.
To celebrate International Women's Day, on March 8th, we have decided to highlight 8 Portuguese female chefs you should know! In no particular order, meet the chefs:
1. Chef Ana Moura
Chef Ana Moura cooks bacalhau like not many can do! This is certainly a huge compliment in cod-obsessed Portugal. Chef Ana Moura has a varied experience in professional kitchens, from pastries (Arzak, in Spain) to fine dining (Eleven and Cave 23, in Portugal). Back in 2019 she opened Bacalhoaria Moderna, the only Portuguese restaurant dedicated to the country’s most celebrated ingredient, salted codfish. While the menu covers other ingredients besides cod, bacalhau is certainly the star of the show. But it wouldn’t be without chef Ana Moura’s interpretation. At Bacalhoaria Moderna, chef Ana Moura celebrates the versatility of salted codfish, breathing in some traditional influences but elevating this beloved ingredient past the typical repertoire of old-time recipes.
2. Chef Joana Duarte
Marine biologist turned cook, Joana Duarte is the sous-chef of Tapisco, a restaurant by Portuguese Michelin starred chef Henrique Sá Pessoa. At Tapisco, chef Joana Duarte and team serve a mix of Spanish tapas and Portuguese petiscos - an ideal setting to celebrate the commonalities of both countries small servings while also appreciating their actual differences. After 6 years studying and working in Barcelona (Roca Moo, Comerc 24, Tapas 24), chef Joana Duarte came back to Portugal and cooked at acclaimed restaurants such as Fortaleza do Guincho. Currently at Tapisco, she’s dishing out the best of the Iberian Peninsula. Here you’ll get to try her cooking as well as interact during the entire process - the restaurant is small and 10 of the 32 seats are by the counter, the perfect spot to taste, ask questions and marvel at the magic that happens behind the stoves.
3. Chef Marlene Vieira
Chef Marlene Vieira’s mission is to present diner’s with the richness of Portuguese gastronomy. She believes Portuguese edible heritage is bountiful and a key element of the national identity. Her work is meant to keep the legacy alive and well. This translates into the creation of dishes that blend tradition, convictions and innovation. Without forsaking the know-how of yesteryears, chef Marleve Vieira likes to cook putting the spotlight on local ingredients such as mushrooms, octopus, eggs and local varieties of rice. Patrons can taste chef Marlene Viera’s dishes at her newest Zunzum Gastrobar, in our capital city, as well as inside tourist favorite Time Out Market, at the Marlene Vieira Na Ribeira food stall.
4. Chef Justa Nobre
Way before other female chefs started getting recognition in Portugal, back in the days when cooking at restaurants was an even more male dominated profession, chef Justa Nobre was already in the mouths of many Portuguese. From the northern province of Trás-os-Montes, chef Justa Nobre’s signature cuisine has never stopped incorporating influences that trace back to her origins. After more than 3 decades leading kitchens, chef Justa Nobre’s recipes have never stopped evolving, but the essence of her cuisine stays intact, always giving preference to seasonal ingredients when flavor is at its prime. When we speak about traditional food with a creative twist in the Portuguese food scene, chef Justa Nobre always comes to mind. You can taste her food at À Justa or O Nobre by Justa Nobre, both in Lisbon.
5. Chef Noélia Jerónimo
It’s refreshing to find one of the country’s leading female chefs away from the capital. Chef Noélia Jerónimo leads the kitchen of Noélia & Jerónimo. It’s a well-known fact that many Portuguese chefs love to dine here, in this Algarve based address. The patrons feel at home so much, that the restaurant is often known simply as Noélia. As if you were dining as a guest in the chef’s home. In her informal and welcoming restaurant, chef Noélia Jerónimo presents dishes that translate the Algarve into edible form. Ingredients such as octopus, cuttlefish, cured tuna, clams and whatever is fresh from the market and catches the chef’s attention, make an appearance on the table. Dishes cooked with technique and precision, but that come across as easygoing and soulful. True mediterranean cooking with a bonafide Algarve seal, brought to you by self-taught Chef Noélia Jerónimo!
6. Chef Manuela Brandão
More than a Lisbon based restaurant, Pap'Açôrda is a local food institution. For over 35 years, Chef Manuela Brandão is the master behind the stoves, responsible for cooking dishes many locals and visitors crave. Proud of her sense of taste, which she started developing as a kid growing up in the region of Trás-os Montes, chef Manuela Brandão is all about Portuguese food, in the most traditional ways. If you were to have only one meal in Lisbon and would like for it to be a good representation of what Portugal has to offer food wise, Pap'Açorda would be a good bet! Expect iconic dishes such as cabidela (rice with braised chicken and blood), açorda (Portuguese bread stew), petiscos that taste like they should but are presented in an attractive contemporary way and, as many would state, “the best chocolate mousse in the country”!
7. Chef Luisa Fernandes
It may sound cheesy, but chef Luisa Fernandes’ story is one of those that will make you believe it is never too late to follow your dreams! After working as a nurse for 30 years, chef Luisinha, as she is dearly referred to, decided that food was her calling. At her Lisbon based restaurant Peixe na Avenida, she serves travel inspired cuisine. Focusing on seafood dishes and influences from parts of the world the Portuguese have historically been linked to, chef Luisa Fernandes prepares dishes such as Goan prawn curry, sea bass with fava beans and chorizo and Brazilian moqueca. Desserts such as the decadent chocolate mousse with crispy bacon clearly speak of the influences chef Luisinha’s own travels have also had in her cuisine, in this case, after spending some time in New York City.
8. Chef Ana Raminhos
Chef Ana Raminhos is in charge of desserts at Os Gazeteiros. At this Lisbon based restaurant, that serves an ever-changing tasting menu, chef Raminhos can keep her creativity flowing. Beyond her more obvious work as a sweet dish creator, she is also the innovator behind Exercício Experimental da Liberdade. In the chef’s own words, this is a “project that revolves around the act of eating”. Her pastry focused performances have been attracting attention in the Portuguese gastronomic scene. During these food based exercises the chef can break free from the limitations of creating desserts meant to be presented on a plate, and ends up taking the revolving space as a canvas for her edible creations. Curiosity, creativity and a certain dose of restlessness are served when we speak about chef Ana Raminhos!
We believe that, as long as that is what she wants, a woman's place can indeed be in the kitchen. Not necessarily behind closed doors, though. But empowered and in charge! In charge of an entire team of cooks. In charge of developing new recipes and food concepts. In charge of rediscovering traditional ingredients and making them well-known in a contemporary setting. In charge of whatever they want. And, in this case, also in charge of taking Portuguese food to the next level!