George MendesGeorge Mendes is chef-owner of Aldea, in Manhattan’s Union Square. A first-generation Portuguese-American, Mendes grew up enjoying elaborate, festive meals. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1992, Mendes worked for David Bouley, in Tribeca.
There, he sharpened his cooking skills as garde manger, entremetier and poissonier. To further his talent, he participated in two month-long stages at Alain Passard’s Arpège in Paris. 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, D.C. During his year and a half at the Lespinasse, Mendes traveled to France and staged at Le Moulin de Mougins under Roger Vergé, and at La Bastide de Moustiers under Alain Ducasse. The Bastide menu, which changed daily, relied on the adjacent garden for all vegetables and herbs. Mendes enjoyed the challenge and reward of working in an environment that emphasized the freshness and seasonality of the ingredients. Following these experiences, he returned to New York to help his friend and fellow Bouley alumn, Kurt Gutenbrunner, open his Austrian restaurant, Wallsé. In 2003, Mendes headed overseas once again to stage with highly acclaimed Basque chef Martin Berasategui at his eponymous three-star Michelin restaurant in Spain. Mendes returned to New York and spent the next three years at Tocqueville as chef de cuisine, before leaving pursue his own venture. The menu at Aldea, the Portuguese word for village, is the culmination of Mendes’ Iberian experiences and Portuguese heritage.