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This chef with roots in the north of Portugal has a strong grasp of traditional cuisine and a flair for reinventing Portuguese food. Marlene Vieira is the sole female representative in the chefs’ section and one of the names that Time Out has set store by in recent years. With long experience in upmarket restaurants, she has brought to the Market the best of Portuguese recipes, in the shape of both snacks and main dishes. No wonder she is always on the list of chefs favoured by foreign visitors.
“They say it is difficult to define Marlene’s style, but it isn’t. Marlene has a roster of all the dishes and ingredients that hardly anyone uses any more – but should. That is why she inspires so many people.”
BIO_She is a woman in a male-dominated world, but this northern lass – born in Maia in 1981 – has always held her own. Her parents had a butcher’s shop, with the result that she developed a profound knowledge of meat that she still applies in her day-to-day work. Her first summer job was working in a restaurant that was supplied by the family’s business, at the age of just 12. It was a hard life, but that did not put off this woman (then girl) from the hard-scrabble north. The first dish she learned to cook was a francesinha – that belt-busting Porto sandwich – and it is still today among her favourites, along with traditional cabidela (chicken cooked in its own blood). At 16 she enrolled in a catering school in Santa Maria da Feira, south of Porto, and a little later she started work at the Forte de São João Baptista, a hotel in an old fort in Vila do Conde, where she consolidated her experience. At 21 she left Portugal for the first time, crossing the Atlantic to work in a traditional Portuguese restaurant in Manhattan – the Alfama. There she grilled sardines and chicken à Guia, another Portuguese classic, and made pastéis de nata (cream tarts) that helped bring the restaurant three stars from the New York Times. It was an intense experience that lasted two years. On her return to Portugal she worked above all in hotel restaurants until she was made resident chef at Manifesto, under Luís Baena. Finally came her time to shine alone: at Avenue, a restaurant on the Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s most expensive thoroughfare, she is in charge of the kitchen. There her style began to draw plaudits – first from Time Out Lisboa and the specialised press, and then from television, which invited her to join the jury on the competition show Chefs Academy. In the meantime, she accepted the invitation to be one of the chefs to form part of the elite group chosen for the Time Out Market – and the only woman.