Chef José Avillez

José Avillez

This rising star is a culinary polymath – no wonder he regularly works a 16-hour day!

FACTFILE
José Avillez
José Avillez

Belcanto

Portugal

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José Avillez’s culinary rules – and 22 commandments – focus first on flavour, with the techniques being used purely in service of the product.

JOSE AVILLEZ IS more than just a Michelin starred chef. With four established and successful eateries in Lisbon, the young entrepreneur with a marketing background also owns a takeaway and a pie chain, provides consultancy services, is involved in catering, writes and publishes books, and has his own television show.

From an early age, Avillez had a love of cookery and food. As a child, he would spend three or four hours a day, after school, in the kitchen with the housekeeper. His father, who died when he was six, had owned three restaurants, but was not himself a chef. Avillez didn’t originally set out to become one either. It was only during his final year of studying marketing that he realised his heart lay elsewhere. Nevertheless, he still went on to first train as a sommelier, before undertaking several trips, training courses and traineeships as a chef, among others with Antoine Westermann at Fortaleza do Guincho, at Alain Ducasse’s school, in Eric Frechon’s kitchen at the Bristol Hotel, and at the renowned El Bulli – a step that really catapulted his career.

Born in 1979 in Cascais, an elegant seaside resort just west of Lisbon where he still lives, Avillez’s memories are all centred on food. ‘Portuguese cuisine brings tears to my eyes,’ he says. ‘My life is cooking. I was born and raised in Cascais. The memory of being that close to the sea is very strong and is really a part of me, it defines me. I love creating dishes with the taste of the sea.’

Avillez is reluctant to categorise his culinary style, preferring just to call it ‘inspiration cuisine’. ‘My style of cooking reflects my evolution and mixes all that I’ve learned, all my experiences, the various influences, along with my feelings and fears. Each dish tells a story and sets out to stir the emotions of those willing to try it.’ His culinary rules – and 22 commandments – focus first on flavour, with the techniques being used purely in service of the product.