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João Oliveira

João Oliveira

Chefkoch des Bela Vista Hotel & Spa

João Oliveira was born in the Campo parish in Valongo. At the age of just 13, he would help his mother organise the meals, especially due to their trips to his grandparents. “I’d put a pan on the hob and add a piece of meat and a handful of rice”, he re- members, describing his first interactions with food and nature. His first ambition was to be a vet, possibly due to his close attachment to the sheep, pigs and chickens he looked after. There were no mobile phones or computer games back then. His days off were spent hunting birds, picking figs, grapes and quince, buying kid goats and sausages from producers and, at times during the year, fishing for carp with his father in Trás-os-Montes. At just 15, Oliveira enrolled at the Infante D. Henrique Professional School in Porto, after which his days consisted of train trips between Valongo and Invicta, practical training in the evenings and weekends at restaurants, and a refereeing course.

His professional career began at Casa da Calçada’s Largo do Paço, a restaurant he left and returned to after an adventure at Douro In in Régua. But it was when Ricardo Costa joined the restaurant in Amarante that his career took off, becoming the right hand man of the chef who led the famous Casa da Calçada from 2006 to 2010. The opening of The Yeatman was a boost to Ricardo Costa, as well as Oliveira, who chose to follow the cook to Vila Nova de Gaia, despite an invitation from the Michelin-starred Casa da Calçada to remain as Vítor Matos’s sous-chef. He spent four years at The Yeatman, where they won a star in their very first year.

In 2014, Oliveira wanted to stretch his wings and proposals flood- ed in, especially after a season at the two-starred Vila Joya in the Algarve. He was contacted by Gonçalo Narciso dos Santos, the general manager of Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, with the challenge of designing a new direction for VISTA, which had been open since 2011.

So in 2015, Oliveira moved to Portimão to head up a new project and hire an entirely new kitchen and dining room team. Some- thing innovative and different was called for.

The initial plan was to build something solid: to research the best produce, build ties with suppliers and develop consistency. VISTA began with a tasting menu, a daily menu, à la carte and classic dishes, such as Crayfish and Scallop Rice. A year later, the focus moved on to local fish, the tasting options were included in the Voyage Menu and the Mar Adentro event was held, putting Oliveira on the map as an ambassador for the sea. That year, VISTA gained ground as a gastronomic destination, and the more classic dishes were removed to provide space for the next stage: sustainability and identity. This led to just two menus: Voyage and Sea & Sustainability. Oliveira now had his own voice, a unique language, and could experiment with less appreciated and often discarded fish.

The dedication and resilience were rewarded at the end of 2017, when, at just 30 years of age, Oliveira won VISTA its first Michelin star.

In 2018 he added to this with GQ’s “Man of the Year Gourmet” award and a year later the International Academy of Gastronomy’s prestigious “Chef de L’Avenir”.

Langauge spoken: Portugese


Photo credit: Hayley Kelsing

Kreuzfahrten in Begleitung von João Oliveira