Goan chefs have long been noted for their culinary expertise, and Vasquito Alvares is among those who have extended delectable cuisines to food aficionados for decades.
In 1975, Vasquito’s father started a brand called Alvares, producing sausages, ready-to-cook products and pickles, and his mother was the first person in Goa to make guava cheese (perada) commercially, in 1985. “I was always surrounded by food and was always inclined towards cooking,” says Chef Vasquito. So, it’s a no-brainer to figure out his successful journey.
A DELICIOUS JOURNEY
After attaining a Diploma in Hotel Management from IHM Goa, Porvorim, in 1997, he trained at Cidade de Goa, Dona Paula, for 2 years and with a restaurant in Portugal for 3 months. He then joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 1999 and was there for a period of 5 years.
He opened his first restaurant called Vasquitos, in Baga, in 2005, which he ran for one season before joining his brother at Ernesto’s in 2006, with whom he managed the restaurant of Clube Vasco da Gama, in Panjim, for 2 years, before moving to their own premises, Ernesto’s till 2012.
For a year, he partnered and managed a restaurant called Maracas, in Porvorim, before opening his cloud kitchen, in Verem, in 2014.
Catering for high-end destination weddings and private parties, he took up a management position at ‘Cluck Tales’, in Panjim, in 2017.
In 2018, he managed ‘Elevar' (the Leela Cottages, Ashvem), a beachside fine dining restaurant, for 6 months, and was a consultant for setting up and managing a 300 cover beachside restaurant, ‘Baga Paralia', in Baga.
During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, he was busy with takeaway food, catering to Goa’s iconic ‘Joseph Bar,’ in San Tomé, Panjim, which he continues till date. Last year, in partnership with a childhood friend, he started ‘Miski Bar,’ in Panjim, serving nostalgic Goan dishes and finger food, while also setting up two new restaurants in Baga, as a consultant.
“Being a first time restaurateur, my initial challenge was learning the market and nuances of running a restaurant. I didn’t hire consultants, so it was learning by trial and error. My food was singular and I never had competition. I learnt that good food doesn’t necessarily mean a successful restaurateur,” Vasquito affirms.
Additionally, he has been invited to do Goan food festivals in India and abroad. He was invited by Chef Bakshish Dean to the Park Hotel, Delhi, and also trained some of their chefs in Goan food.
He was part of the Indian contingent at the Arts Alive Festival in South Africa, showcasing Goan cuisine at the Beverly Hills hotel in Durban, Sun Hotel in Cape Town and at Le Cannard in Johannesburg.
He was part of the contingent for the Lusofonia Arts and Cultural Festival in Macau for 2 years, and the Goan food festival at ‘Goa Nights’ in Macau, among others. And, it doesn’t stop there.
AWARDS, SHOWS & MORE
He’s been interviewed by a South African TV channel; was featured on a Portuguese travel and cooking show (City Guide Lisbon) with Chef Kiko Martins; was on Will Travel to Eat, where the host Anisha Beig visited Ernesto’s restaurant; was part of a Christmas special by Anisha Beig, featuring Chef Floyd Cardoz and 6 Goan chefs; was featured by Ranveer Brar on Station Master’s Tiffin; was on David Rocco’s Dolce India (Goa episode,) and the Big Forkers show on the BBQ episode.
Among his must-have signature dishes are Sausage Bread Lasagna (sausage and bread cut into pieces, mixed with tomato sauce and prepared into lasagna), Maka Pao Steak (filet steak, flavoured with Goan sausage and red wine sauce, choux paste dough stuffed with cheese and Goa sausage and crumb-fried). His succulent Pork Chops are to-die-for.
“I’ve specialized in meats and barbeque, and have an advantage in experience compared to other chefs. My menus are unique and have my special twist,” says he. And, that’s why he’s ahead of the herd.
Among awards, Ernesto’s received the Times Food award for the Best Global Fusion restaurant in Goa in 2010, while Maracas bagged the Times Food award for Best Global Fusion Restaurant during his tenure as chef in 2011. He has also written on food for several local dailies.
“For me, satisfied customers are more important than my innovative cuisine. Being a professional chef is hard work and a full-time commitment. You have to be absolutely passionate about it. While everyone is holidaying or partying, you have to be on the job, and continue working,” concludes Vasquito.