Our Chef Rúben Santos and his experience in the Essential – O Paparico Internship

As part of the company's internship plan, I spent two weeks in the "essential" restaurant, owned by Chef André Lança Cordeiro in Lisbon. Through this text I intend to succinctly relate the experience I lived in it.

The classic French cuisine is a "must have" for professionals in the area, in one way or another, part of this knowledge should be part of our kit of skills. I had not yet had in my career a moment where I could experience this in the best way, with someone who already had the knowledge in question. I decided that now would be the time to do it.

O "essencial" is probably the restaurant in Portugal, at this moment, that works the most on what is classical French cuisine, and being a small restaurant, the proximity with the chef would be greater, and therefore the transmission of knowledge more direct. However, at the beginning of the year, we were subject to a new confinement, all the restaurants in the country closed, leaving only a few open for delivery and take-away. One of these was "essential", even though it wasn't the idea I had in mind originally, I decided to go anyway, as I knew I would always take some knowledge from the experience. If it was to learn something new and evolve, regardless of the register practiced, then the idea still stood in my mind.

The centre of Lisbon is now experiencing a reality very similar to Oporto. The tourists have left, there are countless doors of restaurants, cafes and bars with the word "trespassing" stuck on them. I have seen this not only in small businesses, but also in large spaces, which probably in the past were unavoidable points in the capital's daily life. 

As an example, the upper quarter, which in 2019 was immersed daily in an all-day crowd of locals and tourists, was nothing but a shadow, half a dozen lifeless blocks, empty Airbnb's, closed shopping spaces and deserted streets.

It is precisely in the upper neighbourhood that Chef André Lança Cordeiro, opens "essential" in 2019. After a fifteen-year career, a large part of which was spent in France, in luxury hotel chains, this is the first project truly his, even though he was in charge of the "Hotel Palácio do Governador" and the tiny "Local", these did not belong to him. According to him, this restaurant is the maximum expression of his already mature and refined cuisine. The name of the restaurant translates the chef's ideology, on the plate goes what is indispensable to it, the simple well executed, the essential.

It is a small space, seating around twenty-four people. The kitchen and the living room merge in the same room, this one quite minimalist, where the neutral tones are the protagonists (white and grey) and the woods with some copper and marble points.

I felt welcomed and quickly integrated. I did a bit of everything, from working with fish, to meat, passing through pastry. The chef was careful to take me through all the sections of the restaurant, never giving me repetitive or redundant tasks. I participated independently in restaurant classics such as pate en croute, or various petiviers.

I have prepared broths and sauces; I have worked on noble proteins such as turbot and pheasant. And talking about product, the proteins used are always top quality, whether it's carabinieri, game hare, wild duck, Sado oyster, among others.

I also extract from this experience the empathy I established with Chef André Cordeiro, who was always available to share his ideas and knowledge. This is something positive that I will take with me into the future. The sharing of points of view is a factor that I consider to be of the utmost importance.

I am extremely grateful for another opportunity and investment of the company, which even in a time of contention continues to invest in its employees, so that they not only grow, but also bring tools for the group to grow as well.

I will bring to "O Paparico" all the positive contribution that this experience gave me, in order to share it with those around me. Once again, thank you all for this chance.


Translated by DeepL