José Avillez

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Considered one of the great Portuguese Chefs, José Avillez stands out because of his enterprising spirit and his willingness to go one step further.

At the moment he has five restaurants in Lisbon, which, while offering different culinary experiences, all express his enormous passion for cooking. At his Belcanto restaurant, with two Michelin stars, one can enjoy new Portuguese cuisine in a sophisticated atmosphere that still provides some of the former romance of the Chiado district. This is the style that truly defines José Avillez and expresses the course of his creativity. Cantinho do Avillez, one of the city’s most sought after meeting points, is a very relaxed and comfortable restaurant. Here one can sample a new style of Portuguese cuisine, clearly influenced by Avillez’s travels. Pizzaria Lisboa is the fulfilling of an old dream. Since he was young, Chef Avillez has dreamed of opening a pizzeria, perhaps because he was fascinated by how pizza has travelled around the world , or perhaps because he adores the fun, family atmosphere of pizzerias, or even because he loves a challenge and, very probably, for all those reasons put together. Finally, there is Café Lisboa, which was designed to bring a new life to the São Carlos Square. Café Lisboa is part of the São Carlos National Theatre and has a fine terrace. Here, one can simply drink coffee, have a snack, eat lunch or dinner and just enjoy a drink, at any time, from midday to 1 a.m., seven days a week.

To José Avillez, cooking has always been a passion. Yet, it was only in his senior year of studying in Business Communication that he decided to be a Chef. In that same year, he participated in individual study session with Maria de Lurdes Modesto and took a traineeship in the kitchen of Antoine Westerman, at Fortaleza do Guincho. After finishing his degree, he accomplished his education by taking several trips, training courses, traineeships and professional experiences, namely his work with José Bento dos Santos as Gastronomy Professional at Quinta do Monte D’Oiro, the training at Alain Ducasse’s school and the traineeship at Eric Frechon’s kitchen, at the Bristol Hotel, which now has three Michelin stars. But it was the traineeship at El Bulli, with Ferran Adrià, that really changed his career. In 2008 he was invited to the be Head Chef of the Tavares restaurant where, in little more than a year, he was awarded a Michelin star. At the beginning of 2011 he left Tavares restaurant in order to open his own restaurants.

We got to ask him a few questions, to get to know him a little bit better:

– Secret location?

Belvedere of São Pedro de Alcântara. It’s a place I love.

– Best view?

Belvedere of São Pedro de Alcântara. Overlooking Avenida da Liberdade it affords a splendid panorama of the city. The Belvedere is located at the top of the elevator path of glory, near one of the many entrances to the Bairro Alto, where you have a beautiful view on the east side of Lisbon, including the beautiful neighborhoods of Grace and St. Vincent de Fora and the Castle of São Jorge. After dinner, it is a popular meeting place for young people of Lisbon, which often gathered here to continue the trip to the famous night in the Bairro Alto.

– A guilty pleasure?

To be a workaholic.

– A weird talent?

I love carpentry.

– Where can we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
You will find me walking around Chiado, my favorite neighborhood.

– Where do you go “for inspiration”?

Everything inspires me, my inner world and the outer world. But I have a passion for landscapes. People recognize my food by the way I translate landscapes that really inspire me into recipes.

– A trend for Lisbon’s future?

Tourism will grow. Over 500 years ago the Portuguese set out from Lisbon in search of all things new: new seas, new lands, new places, new people and new products.

Now the world is discovering Lisbon as a one of the best places to visit in Europe.

– What can you do here & nowhere else? 

Lisbon is a beautiful city. Here you have everything: history, culture, wonderful views, nice people, good weather, fantastic food, a magical light and atmosphere. It’s impossible not to fall in love. In Lisbon I love Chiado, one of the most charming historic areas in Lisbon. It’s where I live and where Belcanto, Cantinho do Avillez, Café Lisboa and Pizzaria Lisboa are located.

– Favorite recipe you like to make at home for the family/and or friends?

My favorite dish is Brás style cod: cod fish, onion, finely cut potato chips, eggs and olives. We serve it at Café Lisboa.

– Something you cannot resist? 

Portuguese fish and shellfish. The world’s best!

– Someone you would like to have dining in your restaurant?

Ferran Adrià. Working with him really changed my life. Ferran Adrià taught me to look further. When I left El Bulli I knew I would never look at food the same way.

– Someone NOT to be stuck on an elevator with? 

With someone in a bad mood.

Explore the Chef’s Culinary Journeys on CNN here, here and here.