We sit at the table with our Chef Rúben Santos, a man from Porto!

A man from Porto. Unsatisfied by nature, he finds daily new paths to reach perfection and above all he questions constantly the reasons of every dish, every ingredient and every recipe.

A thinker, a discreet and introverted character with endless energy and ambition.

How did you cross your path with O Paparico?

Rúben Santos (RS): I arrived at O Paparico as a trainee in February 2016. The dimension of the company was totally different, however there was already well cemented, all the vision and ambition that characterize this group.
It was already my knowledge the level of demand and rigor that was required in the restaurant, so it was my only choice for the final stage of the course.
It was three months of hard work, where I always fought to overcome obstacles and my difficulties, I did my best to be more than an intern.
When the internship ended, I thought I wanted to have other experiences, see other projects.
More experienced and mature, i was invited to come back in October 2017. I have been in O Paparico since then, where I have worked as Chef of Departure and Sub-Chef, until I took over as Chef of the kitchen in May 2019.

What is O Paparico for you?

RS: O Paparico is my home. I live, breathe and I value the restaurant as if it were my own. I feel the team as if it were my family.
I see O Paparico almost as a being, I give a lot of myself to the restaurant (I don't speak only physically, but mentally and emotionally too) and this is reciprocal. I feel that I have a part of the restaurant in me, as well as it has a bit of me in its essence too.
Beyond territory, product, recipe and culture, which are the pillars that guide us, to me O Paparico is also emotion and energy, something not palpable or quantitative, which is only perceptible when lived and experienced.

Last year you were on internship at Maaemo (Norway) and Culler de Pau (Spain). We know it was an intense experience. What did you bring with you?

RS: It was something that shaped my career a lot up. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.
I grew a lot as a professional and a person with that challenge.
Besides all the professional experience I've gathered, I've also been able to bring certain structural inputs, such as the philosophy of product conservation throughout the year and various techniques such as: fermentation, dehydration, among others.

You are a finalist of CCA 2020 (Chef of the Year). This in itself is already an achievement for you and the working group you represent. What do you think was the secret "ingredient" in your journey that got you this far?

RS: Nothing has been achieved, there are still two stages to go in October, so I don't feel that I have achieved anything yet.
But what makes me keep the focus and the "drive" is something that is not always easy to put into words; there is a "hunger" in my stomach that keeps me on the path, regardless of the conditions, who surrounds me or the falls I may face. You can call it ambition, self-superation, dreams or even naivety.... I usually call it restlessness.

Who is Rúben when nobody is watching?

RS: Essentially the same person, whether in private or in the light of the world:
A young man from Porto with salt on his face and a marked accent.
I'm very attached to my ethical and moral values, it's something I never disconnect from.
A reserved character, but strong; rough in wrapping, but noble in essence; paradoxical in the way a mixture of strength and sensitivity inhabits me.
Someone very objective with himself. I take nothing for granted or assumed. I always like to have my feet firmly on the ground, but my eyes fixed on the sun.

Translated by DeepL