If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen or at least, that is how the old saying goes. But despite all the ups and downs in his career, nothing could keep Roberto De Carvalho away from the culinary world.
“The nice thing is how happy people are when they are eating. I think that made me become a chef, just seeing that happiness,” De Carvalho explained.
Besides seeing peoples’ happiness, there seems to be a deeper attachment to cooking as we discovered.
“My grandad joined the Portuguese army and became a soldier and would cook for the officers, this is what he would tell me, ‘food can get you things as long as you’re well fed,’ ” he said.
At the tender age of 10 he recalls telling his parents that he wanted to be a chef. He also tells how they just dismissed what he had to say, but it wasn’t till high school that his passion could be displayed in front of his parents.
“I went to Forest High School and in standard eight I was the first boy to enroll for home economics since 1919. However I didn’t get off to a good start with the teacher,” he explained.
After the discovery that his parents knew the teacher personally, the teacher was more than willing to guide the young De Carvalho in the right direction. He then went to John Orr Technical School. This new institution was exceptionally helpful as they had hotel and catering as a subject. Here De Carvalho learned how to cook, waiter, work in the bar and make beds.
When he had matriculated he won best chef of the year. He also tells that out of a class of 120 kids, he was the only one that became a chef.
De Carvalho felt destined that Cape Town was the place to be if he wanted to progress his career and it was with that mindset that he moved to The Mother City.
Despite a few impediments, he managed to open his own restaurant and fashioned the name after himself, Roberto’s Signature Restaurant. It is here that his legendary peri-peri sauce was born. However, owning your own restaurant can take its toll on one and it was with this that De Carvalho had to give it up.
As fate would have it, every cloud has a silver lining and he was offered a position as executive chef at The One and Only Restaurant where he still is today. Having a large heart, he managed to get his employees jobs at the One and Only as well.
With a gold medal in a Nestle competition and armed with a green and gold blazer, representing springbok colours in his field, De Carvalho has not let anything slow him down.