Ask a pro – take 2 with Ana, the chilled chef

At Lisbon Cooking Academy we believe the key to become a good professional in your own field is to mix four simple ingredients: practise, perseverance, commitment and passion. Then add a bit of madness and you will have not only the best professionals but the most delicious foods and experiences in the industry. Ready to meet the best in class in beautiful Lisboa?

This week we’ve chatted with Ana, founder, chef and all-things-delicious-food at Lisbon Cooking Academy. It’s always tricky to talk about ourselves, so we’ve tried to make it as juicy as possible, covering all-things-food but also some extras, adding a dash of humor, excitement and good vibes. Between the two of us, chatting with her was as delightful as eating her food. Enjoy!

Name: Ana
Original from: Lisbon, Portugal
Industry: All things delicious food
Business: Lisbon Cooking Academy
Years in business: since November 2017
Living in Lisboa: 35 years and counting

What is the difference between a school and an academy?

For me, a school is something more formal and implies longer duration – think of Escola de Hotelaria de Lisboa. An academy, on the other hand, feels more personal, informal and applies for shorter duration courses, like workshops. But hey, this is my very own interpretation, I didn’t Google it!
( Insert giggles).

Shall we call you cook or chef?

( Then what is the difference, then?)

Cook is everyone that likes to cook and that cooks. Chef is a person that manages a team in the kitchen. I think I am both. I mean, I am both. You can even call me Instructor chef, as I ran most of the workshops at the Academy, managing a team and cooking at the same time. 

When was the first time you felt like a chef?

It was not in a kitchen. It was at Escola de Hotelaria de Lisboa, where I now teach. It was when my teachers called me a chef, treating me as an equal. It is a very special moment when people you admire treat you as an equal. 

( Who were those chefs?)
Luis Figueiredo and Francisco Siopa. 

Talking about chefs. Tell us about a chef you admire. 

Antonio Galapito, from Prado restaurant, in Lisbon. He is a young guy with bold ideas, doing surprisingly different things. He literally had the balls to bring to Portugal a very different concept and make it happen. A guy to watch. 

From a more traditional school, I admire João Rodrigues from Feitoria. He has bypassed himself, as he has done a very elaborate cuisine in the past, but these days he is more into fine dining, concentrated on the flavors and the simplicity of the processes. 

( Can you educate us on fine dining, please?)

Fine dining is ‘the new gourmet’, meaning a non-gourmet. It is all about the experience, which as to be top quality. All should feel exclusive and you cannot compromise on the quality of the ingredients. It’s the costumer that positions the restaurant as fine dining, not the restaurant itself.

What was the most rewarding moment at the Academy so far?

For me, the catarsis was the opening day, in November 2017. It was the manifestation of a dream, one phase closing and a new one opening. 

( Can you tell us a bit further about that dream?)

I wanted to work with food but not inside a kitchen. I wanted to have contact with people. Lisbon Cooking Academy is all about shared experiences. I teach but above all, I learn a lot every day. And that is priceless. Oh, and one time, I nearly got new Nike trainers, but that’s another story.

What is the biggest challenge as a woman running a business in Lisbon? Do you think gender plays any difference?

I believe the challenges I have running a business are exactly the same as a man has. My biggest challenges are actually managing frustration and anxiety, and maybe yes, that is related to being a female – hormones and stuff. These are more personal challenges, not that much the workload. The nature of this business is very unpredictable. I don’t know if I can have lunch with my family Sunday or a glass of wine with my friends on a Friday. This means my personal life gets a bit compromised. And that is hard to manage sometimes. 

What was the best meal you had yet?

Oh my, I cannot choose one.

( Top 3 or top-a-lot, then)

I love Portuguese food, don’t take me wrong, but the best meals I can recall were all outside my country, when I travel. I love traveling and trying out new foods. I always get positively surprised by textures I didn’t know, ingredients I didn’t know, flavors I didn’t know about. I feel we have a short memory when it comes to food. Flavor is a short term experience. For instance, last weekend I had a delicious Santola (spider crab) at Cervejaria Roda, in Benfica. I also recall a fine dining experience in Berlin at Cookies & cream, where I had the most delicious, leeks with butter. I often say flavor is like pain. You cannot quantify it, it is hooked to a context. Oh, and I love all things Thai street food. Extra points for durian and all fried rices.

What is your favorite cookbook?

It is a book different from all cooking books. It is a dictionary of flavors that categorizes foods by its origins and taste. Think of a palate of flavors. Each one has different foods within the same  group. For instance, in the flavors of the hood group you have mushrooms, cumin, potatoes. 

( Sounds amazing, can you please explain a bit more?)

Imagine you have cucumbers at home. You open the book and see how to pair it. They suggest rhubarb, goat cheese, and roses, all summer herbals. This book has particularly helped me with Consultancy, when I have to create a new menu for a restaurant.

Something you would never eat.

Cockroaches. Can you imagine that texture?

( Sure, we get it)

The best of Portuguese Food?

The quality and the freshness of our fish and legumes. 

And the worst?

Our relationship with meat, meaning frequency and quantity. We eat way too much of it. Oh and caldo Knorr.  

What is the future of Portuguese Cuisine?

I have a quite simplistic vision of the future of gastronomy in general. I believe in the future we will all be eating functional pills. Putting a more romantic hat, I believe the new generation of cooks is going back to the roots, getting more and more natural. More vegetables, grass-fed meat and sustainable caught fish. The trend is to care about sourcing ethical and sustainably. It’s very interesting, as what we eat these days is far from being traditional. Bife com batatas fritas or pasta with canned tuna is zero traditional in the Portuguese cuisine. 

When you are not at the Academy you are?

At home or eating and drinking somewhere.

Your love is

My love and animals. I love all bichos. Cats, goats, chimpanzees, orangutans, killer whales (orcas), otters, you name them.


Obrigada, Ana.
We cannot wait to meet you and learn more from you. Who’s in?


All deliciousness,
Your Lisbon Cooking Academy Team