Considered by many to be the chef of all Portuguese chefs, Noélia Jerónimo is the heart and soul of the restaurant Noélia e Jerónimo, situated in Cabanas de Tavira, 25 km from the southern Spanish border in the Portuguese Algarve.
A determined, tireless chef who seeks out the authentic flavours of Portuguese gastronomy, she says of herself: “I’m a woman who likes people and their happiness, I’m dynamic, committed and devoted to others”.
Starting out, 37 years ago, was not easy, however. When she was just 14 years old she became interested in cooking. As a self-taught chef, books opened up a world of possibilities and after studying all the Portuguese chefs and their most iconic recipes, she began to make a name for herself in the country’s culinary scene, becoming one of the most renowned chefs in Portugal.
Noélia is one of the advocates and driving forces behind Portuguese women working in the restaurant sector; she reasserts the importance of family support and compatible working hours, noting that without this, it is very difficult for women to grow professionally in the field. “For a woman, the most important thing in her life is motherhood and we cannot change that, although we can help”, she adds. She believes in work-life balance and in flexible working hours, something that needs to be achieved in kitchens all around the world.
Her restaurant Noélia e Jerónimo is a place of pilgrimage for all Portuguese cooks, who see Noélia as an example due to the flavour and authenticity of her food, its freshness and the seasonal produce she uses.
She currently presents the prestigious television programme MasterChef Portugal, which she combines with teaching classes at the TimeOut Gastronomy Academy and being one of the faces of Portugal’s International Gastronomy and Wine Festival.