Meet Mariana and her family, our cooking holiday hosts in the Algarve, Portugal
We have finally found what we have been looking for – a unique Portuguese cooking holiday that ticks all the boxes. Hands-on cooking, gorgeous location and welcoming local hosts. Tick, tick and TICK!
Our cookery holidays focus on taking you off the beaten track and to local hosts who share recipes passed down from generation to generation with you. And Mariana and her family do just that in their stunning B&B come cookery school tucked away in the hills of the Algarve, overlooking the sea in the south of Portugal.
Having only joined GoLearnTo towards the end of 2018, we sat down with Mariana (daughter, sister, and just one member of this unique family), to learn what drives them to do what they do.
What did you do before running your cookery holidays?
I was finishing my studies and spending my free time travelling every chance I could, eating well, meeting people kitesurfing, and trying new things. It was a wonderful time for me, but after all the new experiences, I had an aching for home. My grandfather was from Tavira, and we moved here when I was 6 years old, and it is very difficult not to love this region.
What brought you to where you are now?
We started this family business as a retirement plan for my mother. We discovered a family farm with a run-down property, lots of land, along with beautiful views of the sea. We used to go to the rooftop in the hot summer nights just to enjoy the breeze and look at the stars.
My mother (Rosário) had a really stressful life in the construction business, and was looking for a way to have a place of her own that she could enjoy and at the same time make some sort of living from it… and that’s when we decided to renovate the building and transform it into a small rural hotel. We started farming on the land again as it was almost abandoned, and recently we obtained the certification for organic production.
It started as a business with my mother and 1 person helping her, and now the entire family is involved – a retired mother’s dream! There are now six of us overseeing everything.
Having a big family with strong culinary traditions (from the south – Alentejo and Algarve), I have spent a good part of the family gatherings in the kitchen, watching, tasting and helping the “experts”. When I started to work in Tourism I realised that, as a result of a global mass tourism, some of the traditions were in danger of disappearing so I strongly felt the need to preserve, promote and share the Algarve´s traditions and produce with culinary and local activities.
Do you have any cooking qualifications?
I’m not a trained chef, neither is anyone in my family, but we are all great cooks! We have cooked for generations using what is available around us in the tastiest, most economical ways. Coming from a big family, hosting in our home throughout the year is a norm, as friends and family visit year round.
I’ve got a background in tourism and business administration, love eating, reading and playing sports for a good dose of adrenaline. Recently I became a mother of 2 beautiful boys that, like me, spend a lot of time in the kitchen :) The rest of the team are…
My sister, Inês, is a vet and a great cook. She has also travelled a lot and loves to surf.
My mother, Rosário, is the glue that brings everyone and everything together. She’s the general manager and the heart of our our business. This is her life project and dream and you can feel the love that she puts into it. She loves long walks in the countryside and sketching new projects for the country house.
Luis (my mother’s husband) is an engineer and a “cataplana expert”. He’s from Colombia and loves to paint and dance.
Luis (my sister’s husband) is a fan sports, just name the sport, and he can go on for hours! He used to be a professional basketball player, loves surfing, skating, and is a certified personal trainer. He’s is also in charge of the transfers of our guests, as well as the production and maintenance in our garden and the grove.
Maria is our executive housekeeper and a chocolate expert! She makes sure all guests start the day with a smile and a delicious breakfast.
We were recently awarded Best Experience of Sustainable Gastronomic Tourism in Portugal… and we would love you to be a part of it!
How long have you been running these cookery holidays?
In 2006, we randomly “invited” my grandmother to host a cooking class for some of our guests at the hotel and it was a success! After seeing how much everyone enjoyed it, we started organising more cooking classes. Today we have an average of 1 cooking class a week (in high season we host 3 cooking classes a week, all with small groups up to 8 people), outside of our 3 night cooking breaks. Anyone who is in the area can just pop in and have a cooking lesson with us.
Tell us a bit of background about the location and local life.
We are located in the south of Portugal, the Algarve. A region with strong Mediterranean influences, rich gastronomy and with a very interesting cultural heritage (this region was occupied by Phoenicians, followed by the Carthaginians, then the Romans, the Visigoths and the North African Moors). A very interesting “mix” is visible in the regional architecture, gastronomy and the names of some cities, making this area a unique cultural centre.
Today has great weather (300 days of sun a year) and is an international tourist destination. Tavira, our closest town, is one of the oldest towns in the country and considered to be one of the most beautiful, and still conserves its charm and authenticity. During your time with us, you will definitely be seeing it!
We also have some of the most beautiful white sand beaches like Tavira Island, which has more than 10km of white sandy beach with pristine water.
What makes your holiday a unique experience?
We want our guests to experience our lifestyle by meeting and cooking with our family in a traditional farm house, visiting local producers, and have a more complete and richer experience rather than just learning complicated cooking techniques and recipes.
We want you to taste our traditional recipes, go to a local market, learn more about the local products and our culture and, in our organic garden, understand how important is to use first quality products.
Participants cook like we cook and eat what we eat, as we have through each generation before. It’s a great opportunity to have a local experience like no other, and become part of the family – something that won’t happen in a typical hotel experience.
If you would like to visit Mariana and her family in Portugal, they would love to have you! Their holidays run all year (except December & January) and you can find more information here.