Meet Head Chef Carlos Gomes
The creative direction and character of the kitchen at Canto is being led by Porto-born Head Chef Carlos Gomes. We sat down with him to understand more about what makes him tick.
Talking to the 31-year-old Portuguese chef, his unbridled passion for all things Portuguese is infectious. Brimming with enthusiasm, talent and experience, he celebrates the breadth and quality of food and drink in his home country with every sentence.
Carlos credits his family and upbringing with setting him on the path to a successful culinary career. One of his earliest influences was learning recipes from his grandmother Isabel in her kitchen after school. He also fondly recalls trips to his father’s parents in Lisbon, learning to cook during the summer holidays. Growing up in Matosinhos – site of Porto’s beach and harbour, where dozens of seafood restaurants fill the air along the seafront with the aroma of charcoal smoke and barbecued fish – also left an indelible mark.
After leaving school at 16 for three years of training at culinary college, his career took off at Porto’s acclaimed Japanese restaurant Góshò. He quickly progressed though the ranks, starting on the pastry section then working on teppanyaki as Chef de Partie. Learning rapidly, he gained inspiration from Asian culinary traditions to compliment his Portuguese background and classical training.
That natural flair in the kitchen, and a desire to expand his knowledge and experience further brought him to London, joining Japanese restaurant Koya, as Chef de Partie in 2011. The discipline of Japanese cooking has never left him: he still precisely plates ingredients on dishes using chopsticks rather than the tweezers commonly used by other chefs.
In 2013 Carlos joined Barrafina as Junior Sous Chef – promoted quickly to Sous Chef – working under Nieves Barragán Mohacho as Barrafina became the UK’s first Spanish restaurant gain a coveted Michelin star. In a career-defining moment Carlos became Head Chef of Barrafina Dean Street in 2016, and was at the helm as they retained their Michelin star.
Enticed by the prospect of moving north to Manchester with his young family, Carlos joined El Gato Negro as Sous Chef in 2017. Drawing parallels between Manchester and Porto – both are dynamic, hard-working second cities with a strong sense of identity – Carlos says:
“I love Manchester. It’s a cliché I know, but the people are so warm and friendly, I felt instantly at home.”
As well as feeling right at home, he and Simon Shaw immediately clicked, and he rapidly rose to Head Chef, making his mark on the menu at El Gato Negro. Carlos had always wanted to open a restaurant specialising in modern Portuguese fare, something which aligned perfectly with Simon’s ambition.
“When Carlos joined the team with the same long-term vision, everything fell into place. It was like we were in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. He’s one of the most talented chefs I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
“The man’s a genius. To watch Carlos at work in the kitchen is something else.He has a quiet confidence about him, an attention to detail and pride that’s hard to find.And he delivers it with no theatre, he’s one of the nicest and most unassuming guys you could hope to meet.”
The last words belong to Carlos.
“Manchester is very vibrant and a great destination for food, yet Portuguese dining is yet to be explored.
“Canto will be adventurous, simple and exciting. I’m looking forward to introducing Manchester to authentic Portuguese cuisine with a modern touch.”
You’ll be able to savour Carlos’ modern Portuguese cooking in September when Canto opens in Ancoats. Follow us on social, and subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with all the latest news.