Olivier Da Costa, without borders

Olivier Da Costa, without-borders

Olivier da Costa © ffmag

Olivier Da Costa is one of the best-known faces on the Portuguese gastronomic scene. So much so that the gastronomic revolution that Portugal has undergone over the last two decades would not have been possible without his contribution. A tireless worker and a sharp businessman, at 47 years old he manages a Portuguese gastronomic group, with international branches in São Paulo, Bangkok, Paris and Nice, as well as his restaurants in Porto, Lisbon, Cascais and the Algarve. 

Cooking runs through Da Costa's veins; his father, Michel Da Costa, was a TV chef, which inspired him to study at the Escola Superior de Hotelaria de Estoril. On top of being a chef he is a born entrepreneur with an enviable nose for business. The secret of his success: observe, identify trends, and work, lots of hard work. Laughing, he tells us how a friend once told him: "you can't catch luck sitting down, so get up."

Guilty by Olivier Restaurant

Guilty © Grupo Olivier

The businessman admits to not understanding the recent obsession with Stars and recognition in the world of cooking. For him, "a restaurant is a business, and the Stars don't pay." And he isn't far off the mark. The proof is in the wide acceptance received by all of the group's restaurants. Their specialties vary greatly, including Brazilian, Mediterranean, French, Italian, and Asian cuisine as well as street food. 

What is your secret, Olivier?
Lots of work and attention to detail. 25 years ago, I saw an opportunity to launch a non-existent concept in Lisbon. My father, the first Michelin star chef in Portugal, had a restaurant at Castelo de São Jorge in Lisbon, and when service was over, I would reopen and serve Picanha steak. From that moment on, I paid attention to what was missing in Lisbon. I started a line of food hampers using premium products, many imported and not seen until then in Portugal. I went on to launch new restaurants, making sure I was present as much as possible to observe the smallest of details. And today, after 25 years of hard work, I am the Portuguese restaurant entrepreneur with the most restaurants open outside Portugal.

K.O.B. by Olivier

K.O.B. © Grupo Olivier

How do you deal with being the Portuguese entrepreneur with the most restaurants abroad? How many do you own outside of Portugal?
Beyond Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve and Cascais, the Olivier group is in São Paulo, Bangkok, Paris, Nice, and in 2023 will open in London, Tenerife and other cities which are to be announced. The first international restaurant of my current portfolio was SEEN São Paulo, a creation of mine in one of the hottest hotels in this Brazilian metropolis, Tivoli Mofarrej. The experience of partnering with a large hotel group, Minor Hotels, was such a success that we began to replicate the business model, not only with this group, but also with United Investments Portugal and Maison Albar. Meanwhile, the Olivier group's status has brought other groups to us, looking for our experience to launch in their hotel restaurants with hype, innovative menus, and proven successful concepts. If we were to meet all the challenges of opening restaurants, we would certainly have more than 50 restaurants open. But for now, we're on our way to the 30, which we expect to achieve during the course of 2023, closing the year with at least seven countries in our portfolio of operations.

Seen by Olivier

Seen © Grupo Olivier

How do you manage to implement excellence in each of the projects you carry out?
I live inside my restaurants, and when I'm on holiday, I study the restaurants I like the most in every place I'm in. In private, I reflect on what I saw, the gaps that still exist in the market, and where I can add value. That was what happened with Yakuza Lisbon, for example, by combining the best of sushi and sashimi with a Mediterranean twist. The same with XXL, which sits in front of the Portuguese Parliament, where I took over a restaurant of a friend who wanted to retire from city life. The menu and space are innovative, without losing the historical legacy left by my friend, Vasco Gallego. When I take on a project, I take part in everything, even decisions and monitoring interior design. Later, I'm there, encouraging my teams to keep an eye on every detail, every day, without resting on their laurels.

What are the next countries you have your sights set on?
After Brazil, Thailand, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy, we are finalising our entry into another central European capital. And, of course we proudly include Portugal, where we started our journey 25 years ago with recognised concepts of excellence in establishments such as Yakuza by Olivier, SEEN by Olivier and XXL by Olivier.

XXL by Olivier

XXL © Grupo Olivier

You are a well-known entrepreneur in Portugal, and in the international arena we are starting to hear about this Portuguese chef who is conquering the tastebuds of the Jet Set in every country he opens in. How do you connect with people?
I believe that by being genuine, focusing on work and respect for my partners, always making sure all stakeholders of operations gain, and putting the client first are all reasons people can connect with me. People know me not only from the media, but because I'm in my restaurants every day.

Tell us about your new challenges within the Olivier Da Costa Group.
I often say that the world is too small for my ambition. After opening up in the main European capitals, a road the Olivier Group is well set on, with Paris, London, Rome and, of course, Lisbon, along with others being looked into, we will look at the possibility of investing in the next step along from the restaurant industry; the hotel industry. Part of this strategy includes listening to my two sons, Lucas and Mateus, the new generation who are very attentive to the future of this industry.

Yakuza by Olivier

Yakuza © Grupo Olivier

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