Bernardo De Sousa Coutinho chef to golf’s international superstars
Bernardo de Sousa Coutinho was born in Luanda, the capital of An gola, a city he believes is the most beautiful in the world. “I love the city I was born in. It is also where I started to cook under the guidance of a friendly An golan chef who taught me how to create many African and European dishes. I have great memories of that time and even after so many years I still think of my first `teacher’ with great affection.” As our friendship goes way back and has strengthened over the years, it was really good to catch up with Bernardo once again at the Oceânico Millennium course restaurant. As well as being a great international cook he has always enjoyed a reputation as a happygolucky individ ual, a skilled conversationalist and one who delights in being friendly with every one. Bernardo’s personality traits might be attributed to inherited family characteris tics as well as a proud Angolan heritage. No matter the reasons and despite having interviewed Bernardo a few years ago, it is still gives great pleasure to highlight a man to whom Algarve golf is so indebted. Over the years, Bernardo’s traditional cuisine has delighted many top golfers. “I love cooking Algarvean dishes which I make only on request. The rest of what I make is the standard cuisine which everyone really loves to eat.” Bernardo’s pride in his cooking is unmistakable. Bernardo is responsible for the restau rants of the Millennium and Victoria courses at Vilamoura where golfers from all over the world eat every day. For seve ral years now, Bernardo has also cooked for players who regularly compete in the Portugal Masters and it is unsurprising this goodnatured, friendly chef is so well regarded by the tour players. Ever since the Portugal Masters has been staged at Oceânico Victoria, regular players inevit ably seek out Bernardo.
A typical request might be, “Are you going to cook for us as you’ve always done, Bernardo?” Bernar do’s wry smile conveys a genuine promise that his cooking will be even better than before! While virtually all the players at the Portugal Masters know Bernardo, anyone who has played the Millennium and Victoria courses and enjoyed the cui sine afterwards are deliciously aware that Bernardo is an excellent cook. In addition to Bernardo’s culinary excellence he is also friend to famous international golfers and for whom he, as a `home’ player, read ily provides advice on how to play this or that hole. In addition to being a top chef, Bernardo is a good golfer with a handicap of 11. He is known for possessing a great swing, as someone who consistently deli vers accurate shots to the green and whose putting technique might even be as legendary as his flair in the kitchen. Bernardo’s career began at the Palácio Hotel in Estoril where, because he was still attending school, he was an unpaid trainee. At that point, with Bernardo con centrating on passing the exams necessary to complete his studies, he was unable to fully focus on his future. However, realis ing that there could be an opportunity to develop his love of cooking as a career, he resolved to pursue his dream. “I had this opportunity even though for about four months virtually the only thing I could think about was studying for my exams. However, I decided on trying to combine study with my cooking experience.
I man aged to do it and so I stayed!” Bernardo’s natural flair in the field of hospitality did not go unnoticed by Fran cisco Corrêa de Barros, managing director of the hotel. As a result, Francisco selected Bernardo to work on the team led by chef Orlando Esteves and Bernardo regards Orlando as “the first great chef” for whom he worked. Bernardo remained at the Palácio Hotel for two years and during which time his desire to learn as much as possible about the skill and art of cookery paid dividends. Building on his early experi ence, Bernardo’s determination to de velop his culinary skills was intense. Career development included a presti gious cookery course at the “Escola de Hotelaria do Estoril” and, as well as pos sessing a fantastic work ethic, Bernardo was also blessed with some good fortune. Paperwork complications prevented Bernardo from heading to Switzerland for his desired international experience. Nevertheless, as a result of remaining in Portugal, fate directed Bernardo to Cas cais where he operated in the famous “Marégrafo” restaurant. From a very suc cessful time there, Bernardo further ad vanced his career by cooking in top hotels and restaurants and his reputation as a highly skilled practitioner continued to grow. Also, because his determination to gain international experience was still fierce, he secured a coveted position in Belgium, a period Bernardo now describes as his “great experience abroad.” It was at this stage that Bernardo gained invaluable insights through working in both Brussels and Antwerp with several wellknown chefs of Portuguese origin.
Nearer to home, Bernardo still fondly recalls the great lessons he learned under the direction of Carlos Rocha and António Henriques da Silva at the Bobby Jones restaurant at Vilar do Golf, Quinta do Lago. “They were my two greatest teach ers in terms of management and they taught me so much. It was there that I learned, more or less, the entire aspect of restaurant management. I learned a great deal from them.” Following this, Bernardo was invited by Farinha dos Santos to ac cept a position at the Vila Sol restaurant. “This was the continuity of everything I had learned with Carlos Rocha and António Henriques da Silva.” Bernardo now reflects and remembers how fate again decreed that he would have yet an other opportunity to broaden his horizons. While employed at Vila Sol, Bernardo was approached by António Henriques da Silva, on behalf of entrepreneur André Jordan, to consider a prestigious position at the Millennium clubhouse restaurant. At that stage, André Jordan owned the Vilam oura golf courses and Bernardo knew André from when they had worked together in Belas, near Lisbon and Bernardo was de lighted to accept. André Jordan would later sell the Vilamoura courses to the Oceânico Group and a result of this was that the then new owners, Gerry Fagan and Simon Burgess, would become and remain to this day Bernardo’s “great friends”. Bernardo de Sousa Coutinho is still the likeable chef we have always known and has a deserved reputation for being humble, friendly and a superb profes sional in the field of hospitality. “I love cooking for golfers who visit us and who then come back with the same enthu siasm as the first time,” explains the cook who is chef and friend to everyone. Christopher Stilwell, Oceânico Group director responsible for the Oceanico courses, and managers, Romeo Gonçalves and Eduardo de Sousa enjoy lunch virtu ally every day at the Millennium restau rant. As well as being Bernardo’s friends and clients, Christopher, Romeo and Eduardo are occasionally in opposition to Bernardo on the golf course and it has been suggested that Bernardo nearly al ways triumphs…! Certain winners though are the visitors to Oceanico Millennium and Victoria courses with the delightful opportunity to savour Bernardo de Sousa Coutinho’s culinary creations as well as his legendary, inimitable friendship.
TEXT: JOÃO DOS REIS PHOTOS: LUÍS FORRA