Tourism is without a doubt the backbone of the Algarve’s economy, sustained by luxury hotels and quality bars and restaurants that provide the finest standards of gastronomy and service. For that, in the most part, we can thank the much-acclaimed Hospitality and Tourism School in Portimão. Created in 1970 ­ the third in the country and second in the region ­ on the city’s riverside, at a time when the Western Algarve was desperate for a vocational training centre, the school moved premises as it grew in student body and reputation. Today, the Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Portimão (EHT Portimão) is located in the Pedra Mourinha area of the city, and retains its status as one of the best hospitality schools in the country. Part of the school network of the national tourism authority Turismo de Portugal, EHT Portimão comprises two blocks ­ one dedicated to administration and management, with an IT room and library, and the other holding the classrooms, technical lab areas such as kitchen and demonstration restaurant and bar, and students’ bar. There’s also a residence during term-time that’s open to students who live more than 50km away from the school, or who don’t have any possible means of transportation. Although the building wasn’t purpose-built, the school’s director, Pedro Moreira, is the first to note that it hasn’t held them back: “After all, within the culture we want to develop, our motto is to transform challenges into opportunities.” It’s this attitude, paired with the highest training standards delivered by experienced tutors who are also leaders in their field, that attracts pupils from around the country to train at this centre of excellence on the Algarvean coast. The school offers two course levels: the Level IV Dual Certification Courses, such as Cooking and Pastry Techniques, aimed at under-25s who have completed 9th grade and want to gain vocational training whilst also completing their school education; and Level V Technological Specialisation Courses for those looking for an alternative to higher education. The school’s “speciality”, however, which has produced some of the country’s finest hospitality professionals, is the Level V Hospitality Management – Food & Drink (Gestão Hoteleira Restauração e Bebidas). The jewel in the school’s crown, this specialist course sets out to produce well-rounded and highly skilled F&B professionals, with reallife practical training alongside subjects such as cost-control, menu engineering and marketing. “All the courses are complementary, particularly on the practical side ­ those who cook need someone to serve what they create, and those who wait need something to serve,” explains Pedro Moreira, who is also the director of the Hospitality and Tourism School of the Algarve, in Faro.

Everything in the school, he emphasises, is made by the pupils, guided and overseen by the tutors. In fact, every day is a real-life scenario for the students at EHT Portimão, from the impeccable uniforms (the men must also be clean-shaven and all visible piercings removed) to the typical codes of conduct followed by any prestigious hotel unit. “Our motto is almost military in its approach: ‘Train hard, fight easy’. The more accustomed our students are to the correct rules and regulations, the easier it is to follow the highest standards of hospitality elsewhere.” Of course, this approach is put into practice daily with “reallife” customers, as the school’s restaurant is open for lunch to outside visitors, with a set three-course menu (including wine, coffee and water) available from just 12.50 (booking advisable). Special menus can also be created by request. But it’s not just within the school walls that the pupils get their training. Whilst EHT Portimão can provide kitchen and waiting teams for any private event upon request (and where logistics allow), the school also has important partnerships with the region’s leading hotels and provides staff where needed. For Vila Joya’s prestigious International Gourmet Festival, for example, EHT pupils were drafted to support the world’s best chefs. “It’s a huge advantage for our students, but I also feel it’s an advantage for our partners who benefit from the youth and professionalism that our students bring,” believes the director.

However, there is no better representation of the school’s teaching excellence than the alumni itself. Some of the region’s best bartenders, waiters, cooks and pastry chefs were trained here, and a number of former students are now executive chefs, F&B directors and department managers at leading restaurants and hotels, both here in Portugal and abroad. In fact, the school prides itself on including many former pupils ­ and now industry leaders ­ in their faculty, to ensure the continued excellence of EHT Portimão. “Of course we’re not bound by the values from 1970, but this mixture of incorporating former students and new people who come in with a different outlook and new input of the market ensures that we truly have a very strong, very cohesive and very upto-date culture,” says Pedro Moreira, himself a former pupil here who progressed rapidly through the ranks at Penina Hotel before deciding to dedicate his life to teaching.

Noting that the industry recognises the skills and professionalism of EHT pupils countrywide, the Algarve director notes that demand remains high for these highly trained individuals. After all, that is the ultimate goal of these schools: “Our motivation is of course the employability and success of our students, and when they come back to tell us about their experience here and how it helped them with their professional success, it’s hugely rewarding,” admits Pedro Moreira. “That is exactly what we work for, to know that they have done well professionally and that they recognise the school was important in their lives.” escola-de-hotelaria-e-turismo-de-portimao

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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