When asked about the strangest thing he’s ever tried, Miguel Andrade has a really hard time picking one. He’s visibly in love with food, all kinds of food, and the stories that come with it. This passion made him one of the most interesting food writers in Europe’s food scene right now, and we were lucky enough to catch him in Lisbon, busier than ever.
A proper education has to do with a lot more than school or academic performance. It starts at home. It runs in your veins. We don’t have scientifical evidence to back this up, but there’s probably an explorer gene in Miguel’s family. His ancestors from Terceira, one of the Azores islands, are credited as having been the first to reach Terra Nova, a far out land and stretch of ocean known for some of the best cod in the world, which happens to be one of the main staples of portuguese gastronomy. Looking back, Miguel feels that his family’s love for food that was the start of it all, but his mind and focus wandered for a few years before reconnecting with gastronomy.
His passion for all things gastronomy turned into a career sometime in 2013, but his love for food goes way back. You can trace it back to Goa, formerly a portuguese province, where Miguel’s grandfather on his mother’s side was born. He became used to living around spices and his aunts’ recipes. That and his father’s family is strongly rooted in portuguese cuisine, which, to those not familiar with it, is this gorgeous, epic and mildly chaotic celebration of seasonings, flavors and quality ingredients, the majority of which are available right here in the sunny west coast of Europe. But enough about the best food in the world.
Miguel majored in economics a few years ago and decided to try consulting. Fortunately, that didn’t work out. His background in sports - 7 years as a thriatlete - led him to Eurosport in 2013. It was setting up an operation in Portugal and someone happened to notice his sports blog. That’s when you start to make sense of Miguel’s career path. He later joins Público, one of the leading newspapers in Portugal, for an internship in the sports section, but the people around him in the newsdesk were not indifferent to his passion for food, and the writing that came with it.
This was 2013, peak blog season in Portugal, so Miguel was sceptical about joining the craze and being just one more on the bandwagon. He got over that and kept on writing, to the point where somebody writing for “Fugas”, the travel/food supplement at Público, asked if he was interested in writing a more in-depth piece for the newspaper. The internship turned into an awesome collaborating writer gig that allowed Miguel to travel and hone his craft. After a brief stint in Time Out Lisbon, he realized that he might be more cut out for the long-form type of storytelling. That’s really how this aspiring journalist evolved into a storyteller and researcher who also does consulting for some of the most respected food events and symposiums out there.
Today, Miguel spends 60% of his time with RSVP, a danish project that does pop-up restaurants and gastronomic experiences all around the world. He handles communication affairs, from social media to partnerships, etc. and has found the time to accommodate several other activities. He’s a perfect example of how a talented young portuguese should be operating in a globalized economy where distances are shortened everyday by technological advances. We could talk about the many connections he’s forged over these past few years, but the stories are what sticks the most. The stories and, most importantly, an evolved point of view into how very different, sometimes distant dots can be connected through food.
His approach to research and writing starts out with a visit to a specific location, whether for an event or just to get lost and wander while he takes as many pictures as he can (usually not food). The process varies: writing can happen on the flight home or it can take longer. It really depends on what it’s about and the deadline. As a freelancing writer, Miguel might be working for a specific magazine or he can just be focusing on finding the story and getting it right. There’s no shortage of takers, as his words have been published by Público, Esquired, Wired and Eater, to name a few leading publications. His favorite story so far has been a recent report in Belgium for Esquire where he spent almost 24 hours in the kitchen with twenty leading european chefs, right in the trenches of the food world.
If you try to pit haute cuisine against a more traditional approach, Miguel sees opportunity rather than conflict. Most of our chefs, he explains, have a strong influence from french techniques so they are tailored to develop a more sophisticated approach, but that should not be an obstacle. Traditional portuguese gastronomy, for example, has been reinterpreted by some of our best chefs, and that can be achieved while still honoring tradition and those original flavors that stick in your mind.
Although a lover of food and a visual person (his instagram feed deserves to be seen), Miguel is not a huge fan of the current state of food photography where seemingly every sushi roll or burger is uploaded onto Instagram. What he really enjoys is the experience, being in the moment. Once food is served, that’s what it’s all about and an overload of pictures will only serve two purposes: disturbing the experience and subjecting photography to an increasing vulgarization. We couldn’t agree more.
Ok. You’re probably wondering where in the hell is Miguel’s list of favourite restaurants right now. Let’s start with Lisbon. If you want to have fun while experiencing the soothing effects of margaritas and great mexican food for a bargain, Pistola y Corazon is the way to go. If you’re looking to discover how a new generation of chefs is working to make Lisbon a top food destination, you should try Café Garrett. If you’re not on a budget and want to fully embrace portuguese ingredients, you need to check Michelin-starred Feitoria off your bucket list. Outside Lisbon, his first choice in haute-cuisine is Ocean, a two-star beach-view Michelin restaurant in the Algarve. Next, you should go to Porto and visit Euskalduna for an experience unlike anything in Portugal right now. Finally, you should head back south to Alentejo and visit Fialho, one of the most popular and well-respected restaurants in the region.
He’s not sure about what his perfect last meal would be, but he knows what he’ll have any day of the week: fresh grilled fish, while he plans his next project, a food event that he plans on bringing to Portugal next year, somewhere in the Alentejo region, for a close circle of food lovers and chefs from anywhere in the globe. He wouldn’t disclose all the details, but he says he’s looking for something truly unique and sounds as passionate about it as he is about any of his food explorations. We’re guessing it will be something special, and certainly one more story to tell.
Text and photos: Vasco Mendonça and Pedro Gaspar