Mimo Algarve is inspiring tourists to cook and savour traditional Portuguese delicacies with a gourmet twist
Gastronomic tourism is becoming increasingly popular in the Algarve. Tourists from all over the world visit the region looking to capture the local culture through food, discovering the most traditional recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques.
The Mimo Algarve culinary school opened one year ago at the Pine Cliffs resort, in Albufeira, and has already trained over 2,800 students. “We are a school of gastronomic experiences,” explains head chef Lúcia Ribeiro, who leads the project.
Originally from the Algarve, the chef spent more than half of her life in London, which now allows her to communicate fluently with students, who are mainly foreigners visiting the region. She worked with renowned chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Paul Walsh, Claude Bois and Dieter Koschina, before deciding to take the opportunity to manage Mimo Algarve and return to her roots.
“[This] is a unique project in Portugal, there is nothing like it,” said Lúcia, who now leads a team of 15 people. “It’s not a conventional school.” The concept provides several different experiences, such as “culinary classes for adults, teenagers and children, a shop with gourmet products, wine tasting and gastronomic nights with showcooking.” The school also offers intensive culinary courses. With prices varying between €225 and €785, these can last two to seven days.
During a class on traditional Portuguese food, for example, students are challenged to prepare and enjoy caldo verde (collard-greens soup), açorda (bread stew) with codfish, Alentejo-style pork, and vanilla ice cream with queijadinhas (a sweet, soft tart made with cheese or milk). As the chef explains, the main idea is that they “learn new ways to work with the ingredients and take the chance to eat something they never would have before,” such as clams à bulhão pato, arjamolho (cold soup made with chunks of bread, tomato and cucumber, olive oil and vinegar) or almond rolls.
According to Lúcia, one of the most popular dishes is the Algarvean cataplana, a traditional dish that gets its name from the clam-shaped pot it is cooked in: “They are always surprised by the unusual combination of meat and seafood, and that so few ingredients can create such a tasty dish that represents the true Algarve gastronomy so well,” she says.
In fact, one of the cooking classes available is completely dedicated to this delicacy. During Cataplana Night, guests try to prepare an appetiser with smoked mackerel, a main course of peas with poached eggs, and a tart for desert — all inside a cataplana.
The chef fondly recalls the story of a couple from Taiwan who owned a restaurant and visited Mimo Algarve for a three-day intensive course. “They were so impressed by the experience that, nowadays, they serve several dishes in cataplanas at their own restaurant,” she reveals.
The school has welcomed many students, from professionals in search of new ideas to people who are simply curious or passionate about cooking, and bookings for this summer are steadily increasing. The Kids Cooking Class and the Family Cooking Class have also been very popular over the last year. These classes are limited to 12-14 students and are available every day of the week. The supper clubs are only open at night and have a different dynamic: guests simply watch the showcooking, without having to worry about preparing the food themselves, and, at the end, they get to enjoy the delicacies prepared by the chef.
Wine also has a place here. Sommelier Cristiano Pereira says that with Name the Wine, a blind tasting experience, he hopes to introduce guests to some national wines, and describe what characterises each of the different wine regions in Portugal. There are also Portuguese Food & Wine Trivia events, where guests can discover countless gourmet products and wine pairings from each area of the country. They also host bespoke events, such as wedding receptions or birthdays, team-building activities and more.
Mimo’s gastronomic tourism concept originated in San Sebastian, Spain, and has since expanded to Seville and the Algarve. This April it also found a home in London, where it has been a “resounding success,” and, by the end of the year, a fourth space is set to open in Tenerife, Spain. In Portugal, chef Lúcia Ribeiro told Essential Algarve that the concept could soon arrive at Porto and Lisbon as well.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced foodie, Mimo Algarve has a culinary experience to suit every taste and level of skill.
Book your experience directly at the gourmet shop or online through the website: www.algarve.mimofood.com