From 18 July to 22 July, the Barlavento Chefs Summit 22 was held in the Algarve to promote networking between international chefs from all around the world. This closed and casual event was also an opportunity to promote Algarve fish to the various chefs who attended.
A premium product
"There is a high quality market for Portuguese fish. Portuguese fish is scarce in terms of quantity, so the market that can buy Portuguese fish is a high quality market that usually looks for fish caught by small boats," said Pedro Bastos, CEO of Nutrifresco, a company that sells Portuguese fish abroad.
The CEO, who was present at that event, told me that, as the combination of very high quality and very low quantity ends up being an expensive product, only "signature kitchens, fine dining and luxury hotels can afford the final price of the Portuguese product".
According to Pedro Bastos, the main markets that buy Portuguese fish are Italy and Spain in terms of quantity, but in terms of premium selection, Switzerland, Germany and the USA are the main markets.
An example of a great chef taking Portuguese fish abroad is the owner of the restaurant Taverne zum Schäfli, in Switzerland, Chef Christian Kuchler.
We were pleased to hear that he only cooks with Portuguese fish because "the quality is amazing", he told me. "I order it twice a week and it comes by plane - it comes super fresh," he added.
In fact, Pedro Bastos then told us how it works so that the fish arrives so fresh: "We buy from various national fish auctions and manage to transport the fish on commercial planes via direct flights. By the time the fish reach their destination, sometimes less than 12 hours have passed since they were caught. Everything is done just in time".
Portuguese food: the new trend!
Chef George Tannock, culinary ambassador for the Birley Clubs, who was also taking part at the summit, is also passionate about Portuguese fish. "It's a top quality product and the best fish in the world," he said.
As for species, “the red mullets here are the best in the world, especially in Sagres, the mullets are amazing, the barnacles, the clams, the “carabineiros”. That kind of products you can't find with the same quality in England," added Chef George.
When I asked if Portuguese food could become a trend in London, he said yes, "London is very open to different food cuisines. It's a question of time" and there are already big gastronomic names in England.
According to Pedro Bastos, Portugal is now becoming big: "When we started, 20 years ago, we were very much associated with an unknown and very closed country, which had no experience in exporting. Today we are seen as a sensational country, a small country but with great products."
"Portugal is the new treasure of gastronomy," he concluded.