Jose Avillez at Obsession 2015

Jose Avillez at Obsession 2015

by Felicity Spector 22 January 2015

Top rate Portuguese cooking, Lancashire hospitality. Discover what Lisbon culinary master, Jose Avillez, will be serving at Obsession.

Felicity Spector has worked in national television journalism for nearly thirty years, but has now combined her day job with an increasing interest in food writing in her spare time.

Felicity Spector has worked in national television journalism for twenty-six years, covering everything from the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989 to the inauguration of President Obama, but has combined her day job with an increasing interest in food writing in her spare time. Over the last eight years she has been a judge for the Great Taste Awards – and has been privileged to meet loads of fabulous producers, food writers and chefs - all the more reason to tell their stories.

Jose Avillez has a boyish insouciance and film-star good looks that almost belies his reputation as one of Portugal's finest chefs. At his Lisbon flagship, Belcanto - recently garlanded with a second Michelin star, he commands his young brigade with almost balletic grace. Now he's joining forces with a host of other Portuguese culinary masters to create a six course meal at Nigel Haworth's Obsession festival in Lancashire.

Joining him on the team: Matteo Ferrantino and Dieter Koschina from Vila Joya in Albufeira, Vitor Matos from Casa da Calcada, and Miguel Laffan from the L'And Vineyards in Montemor-o-Novo.

It's the first time Jose has taken part in the sold out event - and he's in charge of the main course.

"I'll be making a dish of oxtail and chick peas, with an onion and cheese purée", he told me. "We use a lot of oxtail in Portugal - it's a cheap cut of meat, which people have got used to eating in the past." Of course, there's a bit of luxury in there too: "It's a traditional recipe, but I'm adding foie gras and truffle".

Jose will be sourcing some of his ingredients from Lancashire, and bringing some traditional flavours with him from home. It wasn't easy finding the time to travel, he admits. "We've got six restaurants now, and that second Michelin star came two months ago, so we are very overbooked with work. But it is really important for us as Portuguese chefs to show the best of our modern and contemporary cuisine. We really wanted to be part of this event."

Jose Avillez
'Wave breaking'

It will be a flying visit: they'll travel over on the day of the dinner in time to prep the food, then fly back the next day - but there's already a real feeling of team spirit and national pride.

"I am bringing the best of Portugal", he says. "The main course will show my way of transforming a simple, peasant dish, which is basically a soup for the very poorest people, into something gastronomic, with the foie gras and truffles."

With little time to spare, the Portuguese chefs had to work out their menu in a flurry of emails. "We came up with the courses together, we know our dishes - although obviously it will be up to the customers who come to decide if they like them!"

Jose has already been over to the UK a couple of times this year as part of the Taste Portugal initiative, and feels the team have devised dishes which remain true to their local roots and ingredients. And the fact that profits from Obsession will go towards helping others, too, is an added incentive.

"It's so important to give back to the community. Each year I make my contribution - everything you can do to help others is not only good for the community, but good for you as a person."

Top rate Portuguese cooking, Lancashire hospitality. It doesn't get much better than that.