Portugal – an idyllic, sparsely populated country in which individuals can achieve great things. And José Avillez, who grew up in the beautiful seaside town of Cascais near Lisbon, has done exactly that. With his dark beard and striking features, he is reminiscent of a Portuguese sailor, navigating through the waters of Portugal’s rich cuisine. His goal? To bring his fish and meat-based dishes to new shores.
His mother soon noticed his passion for food and for cooking: when Avillez was just nine years old, he and his sister regularly baked cakes and sold them at school. But it was only later, when he undertook an internship in the kitchen of Antoine Westermann at the age of 20 that he realised he had found his dream job. And though his parents were anything but enthusiastic at first, his unwavering ambition and strong will ultimately paid off.
Avillez trained in numerous countries, learning how to craft their special cuisines, but it was and always will be his native Portugal that inspires his dishes. He takes inspiration from its diverse regions, the sea and its ever-developing urban culture.
Portugal has its own identity and it is very important to respect and maintain it
Avillez is virtually omnipresent in Portugal, thanks largely to his seven restaurants, four cookery books, TV programme and daily cooking tips on the radio. In 2012, he opened Belcanto – Lisbon’s first restaurant to be awarded two Michelin stars and named amongst the 100 best restaurants in the world in 2016. Enormous wood panels, plush leather seats and clean lines provide diners with the setting for a journey through Portuguese cuisine, which simply asks them to sit back and enjoy a culinary experience for all the senses.
José Avillez and his team at Belcanto see haute cuisine as a special medium for self-expression. Every menu that they put together is a story made up of several chapters, arranged in a surprising, enticing and aesthetically stunning sequence. Each of these chapters is bursting with their love for Portugal and delight in combining classic and modern cuisine.
Avillez names one of his dishes ‘Dip in the Sea’ – a mixture of kelp, seaweed and shellfish, cooked at a low temperature, with no added salt or fat. “This dish makes me feel like I have simply dived into the sea itself,” declares Avillez. And every bit as extraordinary is his classic dish ‘The garden of the goose that laid the golden eggs’, which consists of an egg in gold leaf on a bed of toasted breadcrumbs and squid ink served with hazelnuts, mushrooms and truffles.
Those who wish to be taken on a culinary adventure by José Avillez are in luck, as they won’t have long to wait: he will be navigating his way to the kitchen of Restaurant Ikarus in Salzburg’s Hangar-7 in April 2017.
ServusTV: Culinary Heights at Ikarus on ServusTV
Each month at Salzburg’s two Michelin-starred Restaurant Ikarus, a different top international chef creates the menu. For this globally unique concept, Hangar-7 executive chef Martin Klein visits the cream of the crop, takes a look behind the scenes of haute cuisine, and is let in on some exciting culinary secrets. “Culinary Heights at Ikarus” offers a unique glimpse into the world of high-end cuisine and provides an interesting portrait of each guest chef, their culinary philosophy, and the food culture of their country.