Alumni Interview: Frederico Guerreiro
To say ICE alum Frederico Guerreiro is unusually successful for his age is an understatement. Hailing from Portugal, he has made his way around the globe, working in Spain, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo—most notably for Chef Seiji Yamamoto at Nihonryori RyuGin, one of the "World's 50 Best Restaurants".
Today, his travels have taken him full-circle, competing as a contestant on Portugal's version of the hit show Top Chef and currently working as the Chef de Cuisine at Restaurante Pedro e o Lobo in Lisbon. We caught up with Chef Guerreiro this spring to discuss his time at ICE, his journey since graduating and his plans for the future.
What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE?
Initially, I was pursuing a degree in psychology, but quickly figured out that I wanted to work with my hands as well as my intellect. Before enrolling at ICE, I worked in the restaurant industry for quite awhile. My experience was well-rounded, but primarily rooted in the front-of-house, where I worked as a server, bartender, sommelier, floor manager and host. While I loved every minute of it, I was always very curious about what went on in the kitchen, so I decided to make a move and enroll at ICE!
Where was your externship, and where have you worked since graduating?
I started dining at different restaurants in the city that were potential candidates for my externship and the one that I enjoyed the most was Degustation in the East Village. I liked it so much that one day, long before graduation, I went there with my resume hoping that the chef would accept me as a stagier. To my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to start working the next day, as they were short on floor staff. He told me that if I worked the floor three nights a week, I could work in the kitchen on the remaining days. I had a great time working at Degustation; I was pushed really hard and learned quite a lot. After that, I worked in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Barcelona, San Sebastian, and of course, Portugal. I’ve had the chance to work with a number of well-known chefs, including Martin Berasategui and Seiji Yamamoto, just to name a few!
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have had several accomplishments and disappointments during my time as a chef, and I’ve learned from all of them. Keeping my focus and drive in tough kitchens is something I look back on with great pride. Being where I am today as a professional chef—after a relatively short period of time—makes me quite proud as well. Proud and humble: putting myself out there, exposing my work and being recognized for it has been a very rewarding experience.
What are the most valuable lessons you've learned from your time in the industry?
Love what you do and have fun doing it, no matter how hard it is. Also, be humble. If you are humble, others will be more excited to share their knowledge with you. No matter how experienced and knowledgeable you are, you always have more to learn – sometimes, from people, you would never expect!
Describe a typical day in your working life.
Currently, I am Chef de Cuisine of Restaurante Pedro e o Lobo in Lisbon. I arrive early in the morning to receive various product deliveries and set up my mise en place if I'll be working the meat station that day. I work through lunch service and then I take a break for a couple of hours to go to a yoga session. Afterward, it's back to the restaurant to set up my mise en place for dinner service and I work through the evening. I supervise all aspects of the kitchen; the occasional meeting and food styling gig make my days even more challenging.
What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
Right now, television is showing a very glamorous side of being a chef that misleads a lot of people into thinking they want to be in the industry. Being a chef is very demanding and requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears until it gets glamorous. I am still struggling to get to that part.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I see myself having my own restaurant where I am able to share my love for the craft.