Would you like to innovate in your family’s meals? Check out some of the inspirations of the saotomean Chef who is making a beautiful career in Portugal and find out who is Viviane Curcino.
Viviane Dias Curcino (29 years old), was born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). At the age of two she moved with her mother to Angola, but when she turned six she moved back toSao Tome and Principe where she lived with her uncles, she did her basic education and later secondary school in Guadalupe.
In 2000 she immigrated to Lisbon in search of new opportunities and a better future. In 2010 she joined the Superior School of Hospitality and Tourism of Estoril in the course of Food Production in Restoration. Two years later, she joined the Pirata Lounge Beach reopening project in São Tomé. In 2014 she finished college and started working in the professional restaurant area with professional internships in the kitchens of renowned hotels such as Hotel Sana Lisboa, Umai Asian Restaurant, Restaurante Assinatura and Hotel Ritz in Lisbon.
During this course she made personalized caterings for small groups and events, presenting great aptitude for the pastry. She did a little head design training, perfecting some techniques that she had mastered and until then worked with it. In 2016, she represented São Tomé and Príncipe at the Lusofonia Festival in Macao (China) with her culinary super feats, but it was in March of this year that she accepted a great challenge: lead a kitchen in downtown Lisbon, downtown Chiado, at the My Story Ouro Hotel.
Three months later, she began to lead two kitchens, since she also accepted to run Taberna do Lis in Baixa Chiado. At the moment, she is in front of the kitchen of a new hotel in Av. Almirante Reis in Lisbon, which opened in October of this year, a project she has been part since its very beginning.
STP Digital – How did you start your relationship with cooking until you become Chef?
Chef Viviane Curcino – My first contact with the kitchen was when I was 4 years old in Angola, when I kept my mother company and “helped” her orders for cakes and salads. I paid close attention to everything she did and copied. I made my first calulu at age 5! I use to steal the leftovers from the ingredients and followed the recepy step by step. It was edible! (laughs)
As soon as I went to Roça in São Tomé, living with my grandmother and my aunt gave me the opportunity to learn the secrets of our gastronomy. From early on, I had already made some simple dishes for the family. In the early days always with the supervision of my aunt. When I arrived in Lisbon, I discovered a world totally different from what I was used to, with a diversity and differentiation of products and techniques. I have been perfecting and adapting to my knowledge.
STP Digital – What’s the difference between being a cooker and being a Chef?
Chef Viviane Curcino – A cooker is that individual with culinary expertise that has a direct role in kitchen: cooks dishes. These are classified as follows: first, second or third cooker. They are identified according to the theoretical / practical knowledge in the area and / or years of experience.
Chef is the professional with extensive experience in the area of gastronomy. He/She is the one who assumes the leadership role and commands a brigade in a kitchen, thus transmitting his/her identity as a professional, his/her creativity in the execution of the recipes, coordinates and puts his/her soul on the dishes. It goes through several stages until it reaches this level and is not as soon as you leave college or finish the course.
STP Digital – What is the difference between gastronomy and cooking?
Chef Viviane Curcino – Gastronomy is the art of theoretical knowledge existing around cooking with the aim of enhancing the pleasure of enjoying a food and everything that encompasses it, that is, the techniques, practices and knowledge that help represent the touches of pure art, showing the identity and the soul of a dish with quality.
Cooking is the art of elaborating a dish that also involves cultural aspects like religion and politics of a people. It identifies not only food, but also the techniques used, the utensils, the methods that constitute the particular cultural identity.
STP Digital – What do you think about the phenomenon of “gourmetization”?
Chef Viviane Curcino – Gourmetization is basically to take a product, to use creativity and to reinvent itself to the original, thus using new techniques, selected products, more expensive and exclusive, giving a new presentation, customized to the measure. It encourages the creativity and innovation of the professional in constant search for new knowledge, technological advances, which is constantly changing. On the other hand, with the popularization of the concept are used artifice to make some products expensive by labeling it as “gourmet” makes it more exclusive in order to sell a product, something that is not very well seen. But people stick to it. They feel special.
STP Digital – Traditionally, in São Tomé and Príncipe, women are responsible for everyday cooking. Despite this, most of the kitchen chefs in the hotel and catering industry in the country are men. Why do you think this happens?
Chef Viviane Curcino – I think it is the case of professional choices on the part of each one. Men end up having more resistance on a physical and emotional level. It is a very heavy work that requires a lot of physical effort, a lot of dedication and availability. I can talk from my experience. We lose the brilliance, the vanity, the disposition after hours and hours of work. There are many spots of burns, cuts. The nails should be cut, without veneer and no make up. It’s a waste of money to go to the salon! Out daily stress at the time of service. The woman has the work to double, because she comes home and has a house, husband and children to care for, the man has a more “facilitated” life.
Out of my college class of 20 women, only 3 or 4 remain in the area and 20 men around 15/18 are in the area, fairly straightforward and competent.
STP Digital – Is there a difference between men and women in the kitchen?
Chef Viviane Curcino – The society is sexist and it is not different in the kitchen. There are differences yes! It is up to the woman to carry out her work with professionalism, with great efficiency to prove that she is worthy of her place, to prove that she can and deserves to be there, but we are very discriminated against. It is hard!
STP Digital – How do you see the gastronomy scene in São Tomé and Príncipe?
Chef Viviane Curcino – We are still very much focused on our gastronomic culture, the deep roots and the deeply rooted palates. The saotomean ventures very little in new tastes and palates, most of the time we always seek the known. On the other hand, there are already many professionals, who risk to innovate, take in typical recipes and recreate using new techniques, presentation and play with typical products and most importantly never forgetting the authenticity of the dishes, the basic flavor. These are steps of innovation that we are giving that I think is fundamental for the Saotomean gastronomic development.
STP Digital – Some food trucks are starting to appear in São Tomé and Príncipe. What do you think of this fashion?
Chef Viviane Curcino – I think it’s great and I’m a super fan. A practical, humble, quick, simple and inexpensive alternative that serves as a vehicle for interaction and socializing among people. Something that exists in almost everybody.
STP Digital – Have you thought about setting up a restaurant in São Tomé and Príncipe?
Chef Viviane Curcino – Already, many times. I always say that it will be my project for old age … São Tomé is my home and I intend to return one day and open a project that I have in mind for years …
STP Digital – What are your specialties?
Chef Viviane Curcino – Frankly, I am still undiscovered because before that I still have to decide between the kitchen and the pastry, and then decide my specialty inside them. I feel that I would suit any one. Well, at the moment, by past influences and my professional training, I would say that Portuguese / Saotomean cuisine, but with some knowledge in Angolan, Cape Verdean, Brazilian and some European and Asian cuisine.
STP Digital – What do you suggest for today?
Chef Viviane Curcino – Entry: A cream of crab with shell of the sea and wild coriander. Fish balls with lemon sauce, garlic and mayonnaise.
Fish: Corvina in chips with potato gratin, gimboa sautéed and crusty corn bread.
Meat: Roasted lamb with mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables and rosemary sauce.
Dessert: Coconut pudding with pumpkin jam, drunken french toast and crumbled spider.
STP Digital – Saotomeans have by nature “good apetite”. In your opinion, is there a lack of public to restaurants in Sao Tome and Principe, or is there lack of more restaurants for the public?
Chef Viviane Curcino – There is lack of more public for more restaurants to open.
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