By Sílvia Carvalho d’Almeida

Chef Gonçalo Silva has been distinguished by the City Hall of Lagos. At only 19, the young student was the best of Cordon Bleu 2021’s class in Paris.

Gonçalo Silva well remembers when his passion for cuisine arose in his life. He and his mother used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when he was still a boy, baking and cooking together. What he really loved to cook was simple bread or experimenting by adding chorizo or greaves. It was no surprise to his parents that when he finished the 9th grade and started attending the Hotel and Tourism School in Portimão to study cuisine and pastry.

He had not intended to specialise, but he opted for cooking desserts and sweets after finishing his degree and his first internship. In January of 2020, he enrolled at Cordon Bleu, one of the most prestigious cooking schools in the world, to follow a path, which, due to COVID-19, took him a year and a half to complete. Even though he had to leave his family in Portugal at such a young age, he enjoyed living in one of the world’s most iconic cities, the city of lights – Paris.

“It was not so difficult to adapt”, he says. There was another Portuguese student in his class, which helped him not to feel so lonely. When he returned to Portugal this month, for a quick vacation, he had not only been the best student of his year but he was also distinguished by the City Hall of Lagos for his accomplishments.

His parents received the prize, in a small ceremony, as he was still in Paris, and both are very proud of their son. Gonçalo explains going abroad was a long-held dream because he expected to “learn the best of what is being done” in his area, and being accepted at Cordon Bleu was “such a nice surprise”.

About life in Paris, what he most missed, after his parents, was the weather, because as he complains, the city is almost always darkened by clouds, and rainy. He also missed Portuguese food, especially his mother’s. However, he took the opportunity to see the most well-known monuments as the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. He did not have any language problems because he learned French at school in Portimão. For the first months, he lived in the house of an old lady, but with time he rented his own small studio and lives alone now. Quite a step for such a young adult, which required a lot of responsibility. But that is something that is not new to our young chef, as he had already interned at Hotel Cupcake and Hotel Hilton in Vilamoura, even before going on his adventure in foreign lands.

After completion of this speciality at Cordon Bleu level, he received a diploma authenticated by the French state, which allows him to work in pastry in the country. Gonçalo thinks being the best student in his class might open doors for him now. He wants to experiment with everything in this area, from working in the finest hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants to the street pastries called boutiques. But there is one hotel he would really love to work at, The Bristol, Paris, which he describes as “a luxury brand with a lot of attention to detail”. He doesn’t reject the idea of returning to Portugal and opening his own business, but for now, all he wants is to gain more experience abroad.

One of his references in the culinary world, of whom Gonçalo read some books and experimented with some recipes, is Francisco Migoya, who has been an instructor at The American Culinary Institute in the United States of America, whom he qualifies as “brilliant”. I ask which other country’s cuisines influence him, he says, “Portuguese cuisine is my main reference, especially the Algarve’s, with the coventry pastry, and elements as the orange, almonds and cinnamon.”

He says receiving this distinction from the City Hall was “interesting” because it means that although he is out of Portugal people are aware of what he is doing, and also the recognition of his efforts. He says that “it is nice to be acknowledged for simply following his dreams”.


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