My Portugal Series: David Rodrigues

We're back with the April edition of My Portugal, our newsletter series dedicated to exploring Portuguese culture through interviews with friends of Portugalia Marketplace. We're thrilled to introduce our next guest:
David Rodrigues is a culinary enthusiast whose social media accounts serve as a delightful exploration of Portuguese cooking. With a firm dedication to sharing delicious recipes, Portuguese culture, and valuable cooking insights, David ignites a passion for culinary creativity among his followers, both young and old. His focus on simplicity and innovation, along with mouthwatering visuals and detailed instructions, encourages home cooks to delve into the joys of culinary experimentation.

Portugalia Marketplace: Can you tell us what it was like growing up in one of New Jersey’s Portuguese-American communities? How did your heritage and background influence your interest in the culinary arts?


David Rodrigues: Growing up in New Jersey's diverse community, I was surrounded by Portuguese culture, from Lisboetas to Minhotos. Our town boasted a Portuguese club and a Portuguese bar with a deli, where my early memories include being weighed on Carlos’ presunto and meat scale. Raised in an immigrant family, my parents wanted us to stay inside when they were at work, away from the scary outside world. This helped foster my culinary skills at a young age. With Portuguese cuisine ingrained in our household, cooking Portuguese dishes has always felt natural to me.

PM: How did the idea for "How to Cook Portuguese Stuff" come about? Was there a specific moment or experience that inspired you to start the platform?


DR: It's a story everyone has heard a million times. There was a pandemic, I had a lot of time to fill, so I started making videos. When I began making Portuguese videos, everything really took off. What started as a hobby during the pandemic suddenly became this major platform for entertaining people with similar Portuguese backgrounds. I remember thinking how crazy it was that “How to Cook Stuff” was available on Tiktok and Instagram at the time. I always took such a casual approach to this, even down to the name. And I think that’s what people like about me. I’m like their primo from down the block.


PM: We were honored to have you at Portugalia Marketplace last month to promote your new cookbook, “How to Cook Portuguese Stuff.” The turnout was fantastic; you had a packed house and a line out the door! What has it been like to connect with your fans and followers in-person through your book tour?


DR: It's hard to put any of it into words. The best I can say is that it’s been incredible, humbling, eye-opening, and inspirational. I’ve seen other book signings, I’ve seen other events, but I’ve never seen anything like what I saw at Portugalia for my own book signing. There was a certain energy in the air, like this excitement brewing from everyone. Again, it’s like I’m everyone’s primo and they’re all so proud of me. I get to connect with people in a way that I just can’t replicate online. There are things that people tell me at these events that will stick with me forever. The support from the community has been truly special.

PM: What advice would you give to aspiring chefs or content creators who are looking to explore their cultural heritage through food and storytelling?


DR: Be prepared to work. Nothing comes easy, not even on social media. I posted hundreds of videos, daily, that no one would watch for a long time. It’s not easy to keep moving forward when no one is watching. But if you want what’s out there, you need to be prepared to work whether anyone’s watching or not. The other important thing is to just be organic and genuine. People can smell an “act” from a mile away. People want to connect, not to be fooled. And be nice to people!


PM: Could you share some details about your recent trip to Portugal? Did this trip inspire any new recipes or ideas for your content?


DR: Going back to Portugal is always like going back home. This time, of course, it came with a lot of content capturing. Luckily my very pregnant wife also doubles as a camerawoman, researcher, agent, tour manager, and location scout. She tells me where we’re going, and I start filming. My son is also such a good traveler. He has over a dozen flights under his belt at 2 ½. The three of us had a magical time exploring some new places. I think that’s so important when visiting Portugal. There’s so much to learn, so much to experience!


PM: Finally, where can people find more information about "How to Cook Stuff" and stay updated on your latest projects and endeavors?


DR: I am @howtocookstuff on all social media platforms. Instagram is probably my most intimate and largest platform because I share a little bit more personal life/home life on there. My book can be found on my website here.
Galo Barcelos Hand-Crafted Clay Rooster
Paladin Vinegar with Honey
Conservas Santos Tuna Belly in Vegetable Oil
Norwegian Salted Codfish (Bacalhau)