Once George Mendes decided to become a chef, he jumped in headlong. The young chef has trained and staged under some of the world’s most well respected culinary practitioners, and it shows.
A first-generation American born to Portuguese parents, Mendes graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1992. Following graduation, Mendes worked at the original Bouley in TriBeCa, where he met his mentor, Chef David Bouley. To further hone his talent, Mendes staged at Alain Passard’s L’Arpège in Paris, France. There, he learned two fundamental principles of his cooking today: sourcing the best ingredients and simple preparation.
When Bouley closed in 1996, Mendes became the executive chef of Le Zoo, a small French bistro in Greenwich Village. He returned to fine dining two years later as executive sous chef at the three-star Lespinasse in Washington, DC, working under Sandro Gamba. During his year and a half at Lespinasse, Mendes traveled to France and staged at Le Moulin de Mougins under the legendary Roger Vergé, and at La Bastide de Moustiers under Alain Ducasse. He then returned to New York to help his friend and fellow Bouley alumnus, Kurt Gutenbrunner, open his Austrian restaurant, Wallsé.
In 2003, Mendes staged with highly acclaimed Basque chef Martin Berasategui at his eponymous three-star Michelin restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain. He explored the heritage and contemporary culinary trends of the Iberian Peninsula. Upon returning to New York, he joined Tocqueville as chef de cuisine and after more than three years running the kitchen, Mendes left to pursue his own restaurant venture.
In December 2008, Mendes opened Aldea in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood. Named after the Portuguese word for village, the restaurant’s menu is inspired by the Iberian Peninsula and Mendes’ heritage. He won a StarChefs.com New York Rising Star Chef award in 2009 and received a two-star New York Times review the same year. Additionally, Mendes served as the culinary director for the International Chefs Congress its first two years.