The Star of Algarve Cuisine

The MICHELIN Star Revelation – Portugal Gala took place on 27 February at the NAU Salgados Congress Palace in Albufeira. This event was the first MICHELIN ceremony dedicated exclusively to Portugal, catapulting Portugal onto the big stages of international cuisine and recognising its potential as a gastronomic destination. Tomorrow spoke to Algarve-based MICHELIN star chef Louis Anjos to mark this historic evolution in Portuguese gastronomy.


For a former Portuguese Chef of the Year, it might be surprising that a career in the kitchen was not an obvious choice for the young Louis Anjos. After finishing Year 9 of schooling and not knowing what area to pursue, his father spotted his talent and suggested a cooking course. At 15 years old, he was one of the youngest students to go to the EHF. It was a period of growth in the restaurant and hotel industry in Portugal, and Louis’s achievement, and that of other colleagues who followed the same path, helped to make the hospitality school Escola de Hotelaria de Fátima, (EHF) famous.

For around 10 years, Louis worked in regional restaurants in the Leiria area until, one day, he saw the Chef of the Year competition in INTER Magazine, and he started to dream big. He wanted to win that competition, a desire that was to change his life. “To do that, I would have to get out of my comfort zone. At that point, I started setting goals and wanting to do something that would make a difference in my career.”

Louis sent his CV from the north to the south of the country to many different restaurants, but in the end, the Algarve called! He worked at Vila Vita, Vila Lara, and then Suites Alba, where he gained more experience. It was time to participate in the competition. Two years after reading that life-changing magazine article, Louis won Chef of the Year on his first attempt in 2012. “The truth is that I worked hard towards this goal. It was a bit of a solo journey but one that filled me with pride. The first goal was achieved.”

The accolade led to an invitation to head the Bon Bon restaurant in Carvoeiro, which already had a MICHELIN star, but Louis and his team maintained the star for three years. After that, Louis was invited to head the Palmares project. The golf resort was looking to open a gastronomic restaurant and it seemed to Louis like the perfect stage to reach another goal. 

In less than six months, he achieved his own MICHELIN star. 

“When I started working in a kitchen in 1999, having a MICHELIN star was impossible to achieve in my humble vision. However, over the last few years, I have been setting new goals which are always achievable. The path was difficult but full of passion,” he tells me.

The chef is keen not to take all the credit himself, being aware that the key to success is building an excellent team to work behind him. “I always talk about the team because it is the most important thing. The best part is that we do it in a joyful and pressure-free way.”

Although not originally from the Algarve – Louis was born in Alcanena – he has come to champion the region’s natural bounty. He confesses to having a ‘fascination’ with products, the Algarve and its surroundings. “I feel lucky to work in the Algarve: I have the best fish and seafood in the world, always fresh and within close proximity. The Alvor River is less than 500 metres from us. We use lots of bivalves: oysters, clams, cockles or razor clams. I really believe in our excellent product in our traditions, and I really value gastronomic expression; it’s our culture. At Al Sud Palmares, we always try to create a memorable experience that elevates Portuguese gastronomy.”

Louis represents the Algarve for the Art of Tasting, a high-end tourist experience developed in collaboration with MICHELIN and promoted by the Portugal Tourist Board and a CNN Portugal television show. Each episode of the series is dedicated to a different Portuguese region, with eight of Portugal’s most renowned chefs as ambassadors. “There is a moment when your direction as a cook tells you which path you are going to follow: mine was Portuguese/Algarvian cuisine.”

Recently, Louis hosted a visit from the MICHELIN Guide to Lagos. He took them to Ostra Select in Vale de Lama (the oyster farm was featured in Tomorrow’s February edition), and he cooked lobster and oysters for the visitors at Restaurant Camilo. This can only be a huge positive for the western Algarve, putting it firmly on the food map. Louis confirms, “These are very positive partnerships where the main actors are the products. I often say a product has only one rule: don’t spoil it. In this case, the cooking points are the main thing, the flavour is there and simplicity is sometimes the best recipe.”

I asked him how he thought Portuguese food had evolved and if he believed it was now world-class. “Our food is, without a doubt, very special and has a unique matrix that makes us different from the rest of the world. We have learned to make it elegant, full of flavour and balanced in terms of cooking and acidity.”

So does the Algarve´s most famous chef believe that gaining its own MICHELIN guide will be beneficial to Portugal? I think it will be a big step towards the gastronomic development of our country. A way to show the world who we are and what we do. I think that in another four or five years and there will be twice as many MICHELIN stars as there are now.”

For a man who got to where he is today by dreaming big, I wonder if he still has the sort of burning ambition that won him a national competition and a MICHELIN star. “My ambition remains the same: to always do more and better, so that the client recognises this evolution. Your smile and joy are my vitamins to continue wanting to do better. I’m a happy man in the kitchen.”

The Algarve is also happy to have such a passionate advocate for its delicious flavours. The stars are aligning for Chef Louis and the Algarve’s gastronomy.

After years of sharing MICHELIN fame with Spain, with one guide for the entire Iberian Peninsula, Portugal could finally shine a light on its chefs’ starry achievements with its first-ever dedicated MICHELIN guide and gala.

The 2024 selection of the MICHELIN Guide brought many new accolades, with a total of 172 restaurants included – eight with two MICHELIN Stars, 31 with one MICHELIN Star. Five venues were recognised with the MICHELIN Green Star and 32 with Bib Gourmand, as well as 96 recommended restaurants. 

During the evening, the new Stars were presented and received with great emotion. Ó Balcão, in Santarém, by Chef Rodrigo Castelo, was one of the great surprises of the Gala, winning its first MICHELIN Star, along with the MICHELIN Green Star, thus joining the ranks of the highest excellence in Portugal. 

The event represented a big win for the tourism board, along with all the chefs and restaurateurs who saw their efforts rewarded. But the biggest winners are the tourists and everyone who appreciates Algarve cuisine.


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