In Portugal’s gastronomical world, Vitor Sobral’s name stands up high. He is one of the pioneers of the new portuguese cuisine (this is also the name of the book he wrote in 1994), one of the ones who dared to use his imagination in order to create art with the ingredients from his home country. His contribution to promoting portuguese gastronomy and products over the boarders was acknowledge in many ways, but the most important one is the Order of Prince Henry The Navigator, offered by the country’s president in 2006. He wrote many culinary books and he has worked with one of the biggest Portuguese brands, including TAP airlines. So, if you have already traveled to Portugal, it is possible to eat some dishes on which he has put his mark.
Even with a busy schedule and lots of flights between Lisbon, Sao Paulo and Luanda, cities where he has opened restaurants, Vitor Sobral managed to find some time in order to answer our questions.
How where your first years in the kitchen?
I have never count my life in the kitchen, but the start period was a difficult one. Why? Because the Portuguese kitchen didn’t had the charm from today and I felt like Indiana Jones in the forest.
How difficult was to open your first restaurant?
I can say that I was born to cook. I have a native talent, which I have developed through study. But this profession didn’t teached me how to be a good manager. Basically, it is very hard to be a professional chef and to create your own business.
What is your opinion about the Michelin Guide?
The Michelin Guide uses a evaluation standard which doesn’t include the traditional cuisine. The true richness of Portugal is the regional gastronomy, the one who is not judged by critics. I think that chefs who gain their recognition from clients, not from critics, are the real winners.
What do you think about culinary shows (eg. Masterchef, TopChef, Hell’s Kitchen)?
These shows don’t show the true face of the kitchen. They are directed, they present few informations and they show a few things from the real kitchen.
How are your books seen by the public?
I think that my public resonates with the books that I write. I have always liked to write books that anyone can understand, so it is nothing complicated.
What inspires you when you create the menu from Tasca da Esquina?
What really inspires me are the traditional products. When you come to the restaurants and you say that you in the chef’s hands, you will get a different thing everyday, depending on the products we find in the market. We cook with a lot of products from “mom’s kitchen”: tuna, swordfish, catfish, cod.
Do you have a role model in the kitchen?
Me and my team inspire each other. It is the best method in order to remain original and creative.
I know that you have cooked for many celebrities.Can you name us a few?
I have cooked for many personalities, such as the European Comittee president or famous artists, but I was proud when I cooked for Pope Benedict the XVIth.
What is coming next for you and for your restaurant?
We want to develop in the Portugal-speaking countries and in North America.
Fish and seafood. They tell everything about my origins.
5 places where you like to eat in Portugal?
Solar dos Presuntos, L’and and Vyneards, Belcanto, São Gião and Casa Velha Leonel Pereira.
5 places where you like to eat outside Portugal?
Quina do Futuro Recife, Mocotó, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Martin Berasategui (all from Brazil).
The most bizzare foods you ate?
Boa snake, monkey, turtle, aligator, antilope.
What kind of food you would like to try in the future?
The food from the Eastern part of the world because I know very little about that zone. I think that if I would travel more in that area, I would be surprised about the gastronomic tradition.
Top 5 culinary destinations from all around the world?
Portugal, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy
Favourite ingedient in the kitchen?
Favourite item in the kitchen?
Describe the Portuguese cuisine in 5 words.
Intense, aromatic, surprising, exuberant, unforgetable.
You can find Vitor Sobral at:
Tasca Da Esquina (Rua Domingos Sequeira, Campo de Ourique 41C, 1350-119 Lisbon, Portuga)
Peixaria Da Esquina (Rua Correia Teles 56, 1350-102, Lisbon, Portugal)
Tasca Da Esquina Joao Pessoa (Avenida Pombal, 255 – Manaíra, João Pessoa, Brazil)
Tasca Da Esquina Sao Paulo (Alameda Itu, 225 Jardim Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil)
Taberna Da Esquina (Rua Bandeira Paulista, 812 – Itaim Bibi, São Paulo, Brazil)
Kitanda Da Esquina (Av. 1.0 Congresso do MPLA, 39/41 | Mutamba, Luanda, Angola)