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Chef George Mendes' ability to blend modern techniques with the classic flavors of Spanish, French and Portuguese cuisines has helped make Aldea one of GQ magazine's 10 best new restaurants of 2009. Mendes, a New York magazine 2009 "Best New Chef," honed his talents under the guidance of several culinary masters, including Alain Ducasse and Martin Berasategui, and cooked at Bouley, Wallsé and Tocqueville prior to opening Aldea, his first solo restaurant in New York City.





How do you characterize your cuisine?

I like to call my cuisine "refined rusticity."

What region or ethnicity most influences your cooking?

My restaurant Aldea is Iberian at heart with a global influence. (It has a Portuguese / Spanish base.)

What is your signature dish?

Probably the arroz de pato, which is my take on a classic Portuguese duck rice.

What kind of food were you exposed to as a child?

My parents were Portuguese immigrants, and food was a big part of my upbringing. I grew up eating bacalao, rice and whole animals such as suckling pig and baby goat.

Have you ever lived or trained overseas? Where?

Paris and Spain.

Is there an exotic spice or ingredient that you particularly enjoy using?

Star anise, cinnamon, saffron, paprika.

Does the design and style of your restaurant evoke a particular place? If so, where?

Aldea is a take on the Portuguese word for village so the decor is supposed to evoke a coastal town in Portugal but with modern touches.

When you cook for yourself, what do you make?

I usually eat simple stuff like bagels in the morning with coffee. I generally don't cook at all on my day off. I go out to dinner.

Tell us about some trips you've taken for inspiration.

Recently I went to Spain and Paris. I also like to travel throughout the United States. I visited a Bourbon farm in Kentucky as well as Border Springs Farm in Virginia.

What are your thoughts on global cuisine?

I find it very exciting to be introduced to new ingredients. The world is full of ingredients that have yet to be brought into the mainstream, and discovery is the fun part.

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