André Magalhães – owner of the much-loved Taberna da Rua das Flores
André Magalhães is chef-owner of the much-loved Taberna da Rua das Flores in the bohemian Chiado district of Lisbon, Portugal. He is one of a new generation of chefs redefining traditional Portuguese food by giving this centuries-old cuisine modern update. He is also a consultant for Omali Lodge and Sundy Praia luxury eco-lodges in São Tomé and Príncipe, the island state and former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa.
We chat to Chef André about why bringing a new energy to Portuguese food is more than just an exercise in culinary creativity – it is, he believes, a cultural necessity.
So André, why do you think traditional Portuguese food benefits from a new approach?
As daily eating habits and routines change, so should we try to look at traditional cooking under a new light. Traditional recipes have been concocted through trial and error and enriched by empirical knowledge handed down from mother to daughter, from artisan to apprentice. I so value such traditions that I believe that in order to keep those flavours and techniques alive we need to update the way in which we deliver them to our guests.
How much do you look into Portugal’s past for inspiration versus taking inspiration from other cuisines?
I actually try to do both. My cuisine is inspired by tradition and my creative starting point is local seasonal products, but I give myself the freedom to draw inspiration from other cuisines. Due to Portugal’s historical past, its cuisine has been greatly influenced by the cuisines of the rest of the world. Likewise, the Portuguese have left a strong culinary imprint on many distant countries such as Japan, China, Malaysia and India. In the 16th century, Lisbon was the world’s most cosmopolitan city; one could cook with ingredients from all over the world.
Please give two examples of dishes in which you think you have given the most interesting reworking of traditional Portuguese food.
Açordas are bread-based soups that we inherited from the Moorish presence in the Iberian Peninsula. They are originally simple doorman’s fare, usually just stale bread, garlic, aromatic herbs, olive oil and hot water. Traditionally, people added freshwater fish and later salt cod and eggs. I like to enrich açordas with new layers of flavour and texture by using fish or seafood stocks, seaweed, emulsified herbs and oils, shaved raw mushrooms and so on. I also like to revisit old fish and seafood pot recipes and sort of de-construct them.
How important are ingredients, and where they come from, to you?
Ingredients are the key element in cooking, you can’t cook great dishes without great ingredients. I’m fortunate to have built strong bonds with a nice network of producers, farmers, fishmongers and foragers who bring me high-quality products. We always try to buy directly from the source, which allows us to better reward the producers while ensuring quality.
Do you feel like you, and other innovative chefs in Lisbon, have put Portuguese food back on the global dining map?
I’m not sure if we’ve accomplished that yet, but that sure is our motivation! Portuguese food is too good not to be shared with the rest of the world.
Thank you, André, and all the best for your work both in Lisbon and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Working as a cook in Lisbon, Portugal, in an “institution”, the Taberna da Rua das Flores, with its legendary owner and chef André Magalhães? There is no website or vacancies available. It still appeals to you to try your luck here as a cook? Then simply contact André Magalhães, either via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/A-Taberna-da-Rua-das-Flores-292950570719522/ or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You are in Lisbon and want to get an idea of the newly defined Portuguese Cuisine and the “Taberna da Rua das Flores” for yourself as a guest? It’s worth it. Note only that since the moment when reservations were rejected, there is no more menu, but only a blackboard that translates the staff into English, there are queues outside the door for lunch and dinner.
Address: Rua das Flores, 103; Lisbon;1200-194 (Metro Baixa-Chiado or Tram 28)