Products & Producers

Topeixe – Respect for the sea

The smell of fresh fish, the colour of the fruit, the wonderful people that respect everything that comes to them: we are definitely at Matosinhos Market.

In love by this environment, we went to one of the people responsible for the fresh fish that arrives every day to O Paparico: António Cruz, better known as “Tó”.

The work of the sea and the great distributors, already have a certain age and many of them are already on the market for a long time. How did a young man like you get into this world of fish?

António Cruz (AC): My roots are all here in Matosinhos. My family is all connected to the sea and fish, from my grandparents, great grandparents, ... all of them!

I've been working with the fish since I was 14 years old, but my mother has been doing it for 60 years.

Unfortunately, and due to a health problem she suffered, I had to come and help temporarily but, in the meantime, I've been taking a taste for the business, I’ve been making Customers and things have evolved little by little.

So, the beginning was an obligation and only with the passing of time I was adapting. But if you ask me know if I know today how to do something else, my answer is "No!

We can conclude that when you were little, even not realizing what the sea and fish business was, you were already immersed in that environment and when you noticed, you already knew so much, that you didn't even give the proper importance and value.

AC: Yes, it's true! Everything I do nowadays comes naturally to me.

At the time when I was younger and coming to the market, my mother had only one employee and I used to go to the market almost on tiptoe so I don’t get dirty or get the smell of fish.

Nowadays, some people who know me outside my place of work, do not say what I do. Many times, I say that I work with fish and that I have a bank fish in the Matosinhos Market and I always ending up hearing: "you're kidding!”.

"I can't do anything else
other than this! I like
what I do!"

But the truth is that today, as I said before, I can't do anything but this! I like what I do! I love working with catering, but I also love working with the end consumer. I like to help people prepare a fish or even help with recipes and techniques for certain fish that they choose.

How many years have you been working with O Paparico and how did you feel about the project at the beginning when you started working with him?

AC: We should have been working together for about 8 years.

I value a restaurant like O Paparico, for the way they approached me and the ease of work we managed to establish. This is very important for me.

There is an opening in terms of species and articles, allowing the diversity of products that O Paparico present to your clients.

"We follow the rhythm
of the sea
and use what he
offers us"

This opening that you give is great and stimulating, is to follow the rhythm of the sea and use what it offers us.

In addition, there is a relationship of trust between us. There are many people working in this field, but with the quality, respect and seriousness with which we work, there are few. And my Clients feel that trust, because they can send me a message at 00a.m or 01 a.m. and they know they don't need to worry. They know that the next day, everything will be in place on time.

It's funny to talk about the "messages", because since we started this interview your phone hasn't stopped ringing. What is your routine to make sure that nothing fails and that the relationship of trust you mentioned earlier is not broken? Is there still time left to sleep and for the family?

AC: I think for now I'm still at an age where I can handle this rhythm.

I start my work at 3am. At the same time, I start looking at the messages and emails, so that I can see what quantities and what product I will need to supply all my customers that day.

At 6.30 a.m. the market opens and we start to receive the product that arrives from several points of the country. We start immediately the separation of the orders that are needed for that day, both for the restaurants and for individuals. So, it passes the morning, until around 12p.m/12.30 p.m. which is when the market calms down a little.

However, there are always some situations to see and review, like some articles that are missing. At a pinch it's 2pm and we need to close.

I go up to the office where there are always lots of papers to review, emails that are necessary to answer, although I have people who support me in this area. And so I stay until 6:30 pm.

It is in this period of time, that I do the management of all the needs of my customers, such as: I know that O Paparico tomorrow will need Calamar, so I have to manage everything to meet the product and the deadline for delivery.

Already at home, my dinner is always around 8pm/21pm and that's when I'm with my family. But also there the phone keeps ringing.

I finish my day around 11pm until 3am the following day. Let's say I sleep about 4 hours a day.

There is an old myth where the fish is from Matosinhos and only from Matosinhos. One of the interesting characteristics that you have is that you see Portugal from side to side, including the islands. Explain us a little how it all works, because the fish don't leave directly the sea to the market.

AC: Yes, the markets exist from North to South of our country and all of them are rich in products.

There are times of year when certain areas such as: Viana, Póvoa, Matosinhos, Aveiro have a certain species that appear in January, February or March; however, there are others such as Sesimbra, Peniche, Nazaré, Olhão, ... which already have different products.

Another important issue here are the boats. There are boats that in certain months of the year work more in the North and then go down to the South. This is because fishermen know where are more fish.

In this case, as we have contacts in all the markets, I can have access to all the product that comes directly from the boats. For example, at Matosinhos Market, the boats that arrived do not bring sole, cherne or goraz and is something I will need, in that case I call the market in Peniche or Sesimbra and find the fish there!

This means that there were boats that instead of coming north, went to the south. And that's a choice of boats, they decide where they want to unload their product.

Speaking now of the islands, we have species that are more frequent in these areas, such as: gorse, cherne, horse mackerel, rascasso. In this case the product comes by plane and the logistics is very fast, we are buying today and tomorrow we already have the fish.

Since we are talking about territory, we would like to launch you a small challenge, which is to indicate us the best fish for each month of the year and the reason for that choice.

AC: Let's do it! The fish that will indicate will be for the same reasons: they appear more frequently and they have more structure, which makes them also have more flavour.

So: January - Sole; February - Dentex; March - Sea bass; April - Squid; May - Turbot; June - Stingray; July - Red mullet; August - Golden bream; September - Rashes; October - Cherne; November - Hake; December - Monkfish.

To finish, we want you to go to the sea, choose a fish and cook it in the way that makes you happier.

AC: I'm going to get a “Pregado” and I'm going to grill it without accompaniment! Just the fish!  

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Translated by DeepL