Portuguese Table: an online platform that combines gastronomy and hospitality.
The main reasons tourists choose to visit Portugal are the sunny climate, the food and the hospitality of its people. After discovering this, Paulo Castro started to dream about Portuguese Table, supported by the Tourism Creative Factory, which helps the Portuguese tourist authority start-ups. As the director of a multinational for the Iberian Peninsula, he lived in Barcelona for a few years with access to a network of “underground restaurants” which were in their infancy seven years ago: “It involved going to famous chefs’ houses who opened their doors to people with a passion for gastronomy. As I like exploring innovative concepts, I used to go regularly”. The experience was so positive that, whenever travelling in Europe and the USA, he repeated it whenever possible. However, it was only after doing a post-graduate qualification in digital marketing that the economist decided to adapt the idea to the Portuguese market. “We had to present a final project and I chose this one. Around 15 years ago, I fell in love with the world of gastronomy and took a number of courses that have now enabled me to put all of the pieces together.” After spending eight months alongside Paulo Lopes and Jorge Azevedo studying various possibilities, he set up a structure that he considers “a kind of Airbnb for gastronomy”. “Our challenge is adapting the concept to the country and making it a truly Portuguese experience.” In other words, creating a unique meal where the stars are the quality and diversity of Portuguese cuisine and hospitality. “More than just having lunch or dinner, tourists can see how we live and treat guests in our own homes. Also, this gives them a different perspective on our gastronomic culture and history.”
Rent a chef
Whether amateur or professional, anyone can apply to be a host on Portuguese Table. However, there are selection criteria. “Cooking well isn’t enough, you have to know how to be a host and have a presentable house. After we know the motivation of each chef, we visit the house to see how they welcome people. It’s also important to know another language to be able to explain to guests how what they’re eating fits into our culture.” After being approved, the chefs have to present their menu and a map of availability, before the lunch or dinner is promoted on the platform. Another of the objectives is for the menus to be made up of ingredients used in traditional food. “It doesn’t have to be a bean stew; it can be a cod lasagne or vegetable curry, as long as the chef explains the connection between the Portuguese and the spices that arrived from India.”
Just like temporary accommodation, after the experience, guests can give their opinion and post it online, giving a score to the chef. Meal reservations should be made with at least two days’ notice: “So the host can decide the quantity of ingredients needed and have time to ask the specialists Garrafeira Nacional, with whom we have a partnership, for advice on the wines to serve for a particular menu, within a particular budget.”
The first group of hosts started receiving people in September, in Greater Porto (where the partners originally hail from), and there are already a number selected in Lisbon, where the platform should begin operating this month. “A passion for food goes across the board, our hosts include CEOs and chefs who have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants.” So, the price range is wide, depending on the menu: “The average price guide we give is around 35 euros per person, but if someone suggest a banquet with lobster, the price will obviously more expensive”.
At the beginning of next year, Portuguese Table will be available in the Azores and, from March, in the Algarve, but they want “to reach wherever there are Portuguese people in the world.”
by Patrícia Brito
web design & development 262media.com