The name shouldn't sound strange to you, but let's start with the formal introductions. Arnaldo Azevedo, 37, born in Porto, says he was born among "pots and pans", in his parent's restaurant in Ermesinde. He won this year the Michelin star at Vila Foz, located in a luxury hotel, Vila Foz Hotel & Spa, born three years ago in a XIX century palace. We interviewed the chef and will give you all the details about his path, get ready to be inspired by this journey of flavors.
Located in Porto, the restaurant has the sea always present, with the freshness and flavor of fish and seafood from the Portuguese coast. Book your experience now, here.
1. Who is Chef Arnaldo Azevedo?
"The path of cooking started in my parents' restaurant where I began to take my first steps. Later I took specific training in cooking, at the Santa Maria da Feira school, and some internships. I entered the world of work in a chain in the Algarve at the Sheraton Pine Cliffs, and it was then that I returned to Porto for a solo project.", he stated. Turn after turn took him around the North and South, culminating in Vila Foz, where he is today, and has been since 2019, a project he opened and saw a Michelin star awarded this year.
2. What are you passionate about?
"The cuisine is a world that you either like or don't. And I, I don't know if it was because I was born in the middle of pots and pans, this is what I'm passionate about. I like this hectic system that is the world of the kitchen and feeling the pressure.", explained chef Arnaldo. Contact with the customer is another of the points that the chef distinguishes as a favorite in this area, it is, one of the most exciting factors. Currently, the restaurant has a unique experience at the bar counter, the Kitchen Seat, facing the exclusive restaurant's kitchen, where, in an involving moment, it's possible to enjoy the company and explanation of the dishes by the chef.
3. What were the challenges at the beginning of your career?
"When we start, we want to follow certain culinary paths, and the cooking world is very diverse and distinct, it's a challenge for us to work with certain chefs with whom we can learn new things and techniques. When you open spaces, restaurants, or hotels, the whole process of creating a kitchen it’s a huge challenge: from the choice of materials to the definition of the structure you want for the kitchen…that's very challenging for your day-to-day life and for your future.", he affirmed.
"As I often say, in the kitchen nobody invents anything, everything is already invented. And that's why we often need to keep seeing new things, and traveling is also one of the most important factors."
4. Do you have any Chef you admire in the culinary world?
"I admire a chef who is doing remarkable work nationally and internationally and I really appreciate his work, it's Chef Hans Neuner, from the Ocean Restaurant, in the Algarve.", he started, adding, "I've been following his work for a few years now and it ends up being a source of inspiration for everyone working in haute cuisine, and like him, there are a lot of them."
5. What do you usually cook at home?
After a long day in the kitchen, the simple things are the ones that matter.
6. What is your most creative dish?
They are all creative. "When we think of a menu, we will create, experiment, and taste that whole menu. I don't have any specific dish. We are very much in the habit of using some traditional cuisine recipes and transforming them to an haute cuisine level", using always fresh products, using the best there is in the market. These small points also help to pull our creativity. The better the product, the more creativity flows.
7. And the favorite?
I am a lover of fish and seafood, and 90% of my menus are a representation of this. As a rule, I try to always have the ‘king of the sea’, the lobster, in mind, and it turns out to be a dish that I really enjoy. It usually presents a record, not in haute cuisine, but in traditional cuisine, a fabulous application that you see in restaurants in various parts of the country, which is the lobster rice, and that ends up being quite diverse and can be used both in haute cuisine and in more regional cuisine.
8. Since the subject of cuisine is on the table, tell us, what distinguishes Vila Foz restaurant from the others?
The room gives the first impact, we are talking about a 19th-century building, and the experience starts there, from the moment people sit down and begin to observe everything around them. It starts to be a starting point for differentiation, with all the respect I have for all the other restaurants. Vila Foz ends up being an original restaurant, with a design that has remained faithful to its origins.
"Wine pairing is the perfect link of flavors and will enhance both the wine and the dish."
9. What is the importance of wine pairing in a meal?
It is extremely important. Many times, we are drinking wine just for drinking, or just the complement the dish. Pairing is the perfect link of flavors and will enhance both the wine and the dish.
10. Do you have a favorite wine?
"I can't speak about brands, but I have a favorite wine, which is the wine Vila Foz", he said between laughs.
11. Are tradition and innovation in the kitchen compatible?
One thing is interconnected with the other. We must never forget our roots. Why not take tradition and bring it with a touch of innovation? It ends up being the perfect product! The client, Portuguese or foreign, will understand perfectly and will value it much more.
12. Introducing the theme of sustainability, Chefs have a privileged role to lead practices and point out good examples of a concern that belongs to everyone. Do you feel this responsibility?
It's a theme that's 'trending', and that we've been working on and improving. It is something that is done in the little things. Even if we follow it to "the letter" we can have a product in a better state for consumption when we consume it in its own time, and sustainability is also this, taking advantage of what nature and the earth give us, to meet what sustainability is.
13. You recently won a Michelin star, after all the work you have been doing in the last few years. What is it like to keep it?
There was a great increase in demand at the level of clients. We're talking about a guide as important as the Michelin guide, and we now have clients who travel from other countries and places on purpose to come to Vila Foz for lunch or dinner, and to other starred restaurants. And for us this is beyond gratifying, we have a much wider public and we are now known worldwide, and of course, we need a structure capable of withstanding the differences that exist between before and now. Nothing has changed in the work we were doing, but the flow of clients has changed, which has become much larger, and of course, the responsibility we carry is much greater due to this increase in the percentage of clients we receive.
14. What is to come?
From now on it's just to keep improving day by day and keep doing more and better and keep on the record we're currently on, constantly improving in aspects we can improve.