Filipe Carvalho, Fifty Seconds - Martin Berasategui: We’re not just a team, we’re a family!

Filipe Carvalho, Fifty Seconds – Martin Berasategui: We’re not just a team, we’re a family!

Martín Berasategui © ffmag

Vasco de Gama Tower is the tallest building in Lisbon and the whole of Portugal. It stands in Parque das Nações, on the shore of the Tagus Estuary, and was designed by architect Regino Cruz for the Lisbon World Exposition in 1998. The upper part is crowned by a circular glass room that has impressive 360 views of the Tagus Estuary and its nature reserve. 

Fifty Seconds is the restaurant that outstanding Basque chef Martín Berasategui opened in this spectacular location in November 2018 – its name refers to the time the lift takes to climb over 100 m to the restaurant from the building’s base. Berasategui turned Felipe Carvalho, a chef from Aveiro, from the very beginning of this culinary adventure. Despite his youth (he was 23 when the restaurant opened) Carvalho had already proved his worth in Barcelona where he had worked on Berasategui’s teams at Oria and Lasarte. In fact, he was part of the team at Lasarte when the Basque chef won his third Michelin star.

Filipe Carvalho head chef restaurante Fifty Seconds by Martín Berasategui

Filipe Carvalho © Fifty Seconds

Carvalho achieves his objectives with dedication, work, effort and a lot of love. He adores his work but admits that he didn't always want to be a chef – when he was young, he was obsessed with being a footballer. He didn’t like studying so his father told him that he had to start work if he left school... so that’s what he did. First employed at his uncle’s patisserie, after a year working there he enrolled on a confectionery course at the School of Coimbra.  He caught the cooking bug and continued learning how to cook afterwards. But what really opened his eyes was his time at Fortaleza do Gincho, a famous Michelin-starred Cascais restaurant and his first experience at a gourmet restaurant.

From there he went to Lisbon, Portugal, then Barcelona as sous chef at Oria and then on to Lasarte. A spell at the flagship restaurant in San Sebastian firmly established his place on Berasategui’s team and the rest is history. They opened Fifty Seconds in November 2018 and a year later the Michelin Guide awarded them their first star.

 

What is Fifty Seconds like?
It’s impressive. The views, the location, the decoration, they’re all part of the dining experience... We’re a team of 20 serving 25 diners and we have an à la carte menu and a tasting menu.

What’s the kitchen like?
The kitchen works with top quality seasonal produce that we prepare with great respect so that diners can identify what it is. We don’t limit ourselves to one single culinary trend and our menu has elements of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Asian cuisine. What’s important is that our visitors have the best experience possible and if that means drawing from other places, we do it. We have no frontiers.

Fifty Seconds, Lisbon

Fifty Seconds © Fifty Seconds

How much freedom does Berasategui give you when designing the menu?
Martín gives us total freedom. Having said that, everything new that we do is shown to Martín first so he can polish it, turn it around and give us his opinion. At the end of the day, you have to learn from the masters.

What’s it like working with a chef like Berasategui? Is the responsibility difficult?
The responsibility is hard, yes. But it’s also easy working with him because he’s always in touch (we speak every day), supporting us, helping us. We’re not just a team, we’re a family.

What is your objective, and that of Fifty Seconds?
I’d say ‘our’ objective, because here we’re a team. I’m one person with two hands. There’s twenty of us working here, which makes forty hands. I couldn’t do it alone. So, as I said, our objective is to work, work and work, and do things better every day.

But, look, working alongside one of the chefs with the most awards in the world means that the second Michelin star is in your sights...
Always. I can’t deny it. But all we can do is work, try hard, and do our best every day so that the Guide’s management give us the second star when they think we deserve it. And as we don’t know when that will be, all we can do is keep on working and working. And if they give us the second star, we’ll keep on working and working until they give us the third. But, what matters most to us is to do things well and for diners to have an unforgettable experience. That’s our real objective.

Codfish with chamomile and yuzu mayonnaise

Codfish © Fifty Seconds

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