Why did you become a chef? "Everything started when I was nine years old. I used to watch my mother and grandmother cooking and I became curious about recipes, produce and tastes. I have two fond memories of food as a child: particularly, I recall one dish and one moment. The dish is a traditional Portuguese stew made with beef, chicken and vegetables that my mum makes. It's my favourite. And the moment is every Sunday, when I used to cook with my father as he grilled ribs."
What's your cooking style? "I focus on traditional Portuguese food and the signature dishes of the cuisine. But I modernise them in terms of presentation and use modern techniques to enhance the flavours of the recipes."
What was it like to represent Portugal in the IKA Culinary Olympics - the global chef competition - in 2002, 2004 and 2008? "I got to meet different chefs from different countries and from them I learned different techniques. It allowed me to improve my skills and find new inspiration. It's stressful, though. The kitchen is open with glass walls and everybody will look at you. The jury will come inside to look at you and jot notes down without talking to you. And the time limit doesn't help."
Do you like the Portuguese egg tarts found in Asia? "I've tried some in Macau and they are very different from the real thing. The cream inside should be creamier and softer because we use a lot more egg yolks and sugar. We use a specific type of flour for the pastry to make it much crispier. I'm going to bring it to Casa Lisboa but I have to find the proper flour and ingredients first. You need good produce, otherwise it's impossible."
What is the one ingredient you cannot do without? "Coriander, because it's a very charismatic Portuguese flavour. We use it in quite a few dishes. At Casa Lisboa, that includes the traditional cataplana seafood stew and clams with white sauce. It also goes well with octopus and bacalhau [salt cod]."
What is your guilty pleasure? "Iberico ham, with Portuguese wine, of course!"