César Sousa has got a lot on his plate – not only is he getting married in Portugal next week but then he flies home afterwards to start his new position as head chef at Pappo, Botley‘s new restaurant in West Way Square.
“I AM CONFIDENT WE CAN BRING SOMETHING REALLY NEW AND EXCITING TO Oxford”
Although Pappo opened early this year, staffing issues have meant sourcing a chef has been difficult, and any more ambitious culinary plans have had to be put on the back burner – until now!
Because by appointing César Sousa, Pappo has not only secured a young ambitious chef itching to make a name for himself, but also an impressive culinary pedigree that includes Le Manoir, Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers in Marlow, La Table D’Alix and Fyfield’s White Hart.
“I would recommend working at le manoir to any young ambitious chef. It’s so rewarding and keeps you really motivated. I learned so much there”
His first head chef role means César is bursting with new ideas and plans, and while sticking to the cakes and coffee, brunch and lunch menu currently running, the 32-year-old aims to begin a casual fine dining menu in the evenings to demonstrate his extensive repertoire.
Growing up in rural Portugal, his family farm ensured a plentiful quantity of grapes, wine, olive oil and seasonal produce. His earliest memory is crushing grapes aged three. His grandmother was a prolific cook.
“The Hand and Flowers taught me to cook British cuisine on a whole new level”
All the family meals were cooked in a wood fired oven and they would harvest and eat together en masse.
However, it took César a while to realise the significance of his food obsession, quitting his engineering degree to go to food college and then moving into big hotels and learning to cook different global cuisines.
“it might take time to establish our reputation but I have the right focus, concentration and passion to make that happen at pappo”
Aged 23, he came to the UK, landing a job at The Salutation Inn in Topsham near Exeter in Devon. “It was the kind of cooking I wanted to be doing. Locals would bring fresh river trout to the back door from the River Exe, or game that was still warm, and it was a way of life I could relate to,” he remembers fondly.
He then applied to Oxfordshire’s Le Manoir where he worked on every station for four years and loved every second, until a skiing accident put him out of action.
“Everyone knows Le Manoir all over the world, so it was really something to get a job there. It really is quite unique and I had the most amazing time there. I would recommend it to any young ambitious chef. It’s so rewarding and keeps you really motivated. I learned so much there,” he says.
The Hand and Flowers in Marlow beckoned next “It taught me to cook British cuisine on a whole new level so yes a real interesting time” he says, before he moved to La Table D’Alix at The Plough in Great Haseley, near his home, to ensure he saw his newborn son as often as possible.
“I can pour my passion and experience into pappo, my heart and soul, and make it work. I can’t wait to get started”
César loved the ethos at The White Hart Fyfield too where the produce was always fresh and seasonal, much of it home-grown in the pub’s own allotments. “We would do 100+ for lunch and dinner, so it was really busy there and a great environment to work in, he remembers.”
But now it seems the time has finally come for him to take the reins of a kitchen himself and pave his own way at Pappo. “Pappo has got so much potential. It needs a bit of reorganising but I am confident we can bring something really new and exciting to Oxford,” he said.
“It’s somewhere that I can pour my passion and experience into, my heart and soul, and make it work. I can’t wait to get started.
So what can people expect? “great food, great service and a great atmnposphere with food for everyone to enjoy.”
Will there be some Portuguese dishes sneaking in? “Yes there might be some salted cod, octopus, tomatoes, courgette flowers – anything seasonal really,” he smiles. “But more than that, I want us to find our own identity there as a team. That’s really important.
“So it might take time to establish our reputation but I have the right focus, concentration and passion to make that happen and Pappo is like a blank canvas, it’s like starting again.”
But first, having delayed his wedding twice already due to Covid, he is marrying his long-term partner Andreia who is the restaurant manager at The Old Parsonage.
Pappo opens with César Sousa at the helm on July 29. Go to https://www.pappoeat.co.uk